West Newton Elementary School fifth-grader Paul Fowler walks to his classroom with paraprofessional Tresnesa Cosby on Tuesday morning in their sports gear. As part of Red Ribbon Week activities, students and staff wore team jerseys and sports attire to "team up against drugs." The school will hold an assembly on Thursday and a character day parade on Friday. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- Newton County students are taking a stand against alcohol and drugs this week by wearing red ribbons, caps and team colors.
This week is national Red Ribbon Week, and students in the Newton County School System are once again participating in the awareness campaign.
George B. Hutchinson, school social worker for the Newton County School System, said that the week fosters a sense of community support against the drug culture.
"If children and youth perceive that there is a cohesive group of peers, teachers, administrators and staff that is saying, 'We will not tolerate drug abuse at our school or in our lives,' then they are better equipped to stand up to the pressures to use drugs and alcohol to which they are exposed daily in the media and popular culture," he said.
Schools developed daily activities and special events to raise awareness about the cause and for students, teachers and other school staff to focus on avoiding alcohol and drugs.
"The school guidance departments work very hard to create events at their schools that are both fun and informative, so that our children are being reminded of the drug-free message daily," Hutchinson said.
Schools have organized special days for students and staff to wear certain types of clothing or participate in special events. Students and staff also are wearing red on certain days and red ribbons other days -- the color that represents the cause.
Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country.
It was created as a national campaign in response to the 1985 death of DEA special agent Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena, who was abducted and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico. After the murder, parents, youth and teachers in communities across the country began wearing red ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drugs.
Several Newton County schools are holding crazy sock days to "sock it to drugs," hat days to "put a cap on drugs" and team jersey days to "team up against drugs."
At Cousins Middle School, students also will get a CNN trivia question of the day, and Alcovy High School is selling wristbands all week for a special speaker on Friday.
Several elementary schools are having puppet shows, character parades and visits from a drug dog this week.
Additionally, Heard-Mixon Elementary School is holding several contests throughout the week; Flint Hill Elementary School is having special guest announcers; and Fairview Elementary School will hold a Red Rally Day on Thursday with a drug prevention expert, and on Friday, students will walk through the school with their teachers to look at decorated doors, banners and posters that focus on the fight against drugs. Live Oak Elementary School held a drug free pep rally on Monday, and students are asked to bring a canned food item to be donated to the local food pantry on Friday ("We 'can' all be drug free").
"We believe that students are more likely to absorb this message when it is presented to them in a way that is both honest and entertaining," Hutchinson said.
As part of a continuance for the awareness campaign, the Newton County Drug Free Community Coalition is sponsoring Chris Sandy presentations at each high school in November; at 22, Sandy killed two people while driving drunk and spent more than eight years in prison.
The National Family Partnership is holding a nationwide contest this year.
To participate in the contest, families and students can decorate the front of their homes with this year's message: "The Best Me Is Drug Free" and submit it as an entry. They can win $1,000 for their local school and a new iPad for their home.
More information is available at www.redribbon.org/contest or www.facebook.com/RedRibbonWeek.