What does the color orange have to do with Red Ribbon Week?
According to one Newberry County educator, speaking on the condition of anonymity, “The only day you’ll see me wear orange is on Tacky Day during Red Ribbon Week.” As a confirmed Gamecock fan, she may even have a little trouble with wearing it the whole day.
Not to be outdone, a colleague chimed in, “I’ll be glad when Tacky Day is over. This Gamecock shirt feels like pins and needles all over me.”
Holding a “Tacky Day” is one way many local schools participate in the National Family Partnership’s Red Ribbon Week, a national campaign which dedicates the final full week in October to raising drug awareness and to encouraging students to commit to living drug-free lives. The ultimate goal of Red Ribbon Week is to create a drug free America.
During Red Ribbon Week, students across the county engage in fun activities like Be Safe and Healthy Day, Wear Red Day and Tacky Day.
All this fun has focus, though, which is to help ensure that young people across the county better understand the tremendously negative impact alcohol and other drugs can have on their lives.
Children and youth learn more than “just say no” and “alcohol and drugs are bad for you.”
Children must also learn steps to actively resist their peers who may encourage use. Children must be made aware of the process of physical and emotional development and how that can make them more susceptible to addiction, for example, understanding that the brain does not complete its develop until a person is almost 25 years old. Youth must be aware of the resources available when they find themselves in situations with which they can’t cope.
Parents have a role, as well. As parents, we must talk to our children about the dangers of drug abuse. We must set clear rules for our children about not using drugs. We must set a good example for our children by not using illegal drugs or medicine without a prescription. We must monitor our children’s behavior and enforce appropriate consequences, so that our rules are respected. We must encourage family and friends to follow the same guidelines to keep children safe from substance abuse.
One local resource that works to reduce underage drinking is the CAST coalition. The CAST coalition, which stands for Creating A Safer Tomorrow, is a grassroots partner of Westview Behavioral Health Services’ department of prevention services.
Using multiple strategies identified by its members, the coalition serves as an advocate for youth by seeking to reduce the accessibility and availability of alcohol to minors. These members have, not only a hope, but a will to reduce the negative impact of alcohol and drugs on our young people and, in doing so, will be bringing Newberry County together.
A common strategy between CAST and the national Red Ribbon Week program is parent education. Many parents think it’s safe for youth to drink in the home during parent-supervised parties. Westview and the CAST coalition encourage parents and the entire community to send a unified message that teen alcohol consumption is unhealthy, unsafe and unacceptable
This concept of community working together is captured in a book written for Red Ribbon Week called The Red Ribbon. The book tells a story of a king who sees much sadness in his kingdom. A weaver weaves a “magic” red ribbon that must be stretched from the castle through the farthest reaches of the kingdom. Every resident was to help hold the ribbon so that it never touched the ground.
By taking part in the process of holding up the ribbon, residents of the kingdom re-engaged with each other and in their community. And in the end, the king realized that “the true magic is in the hands and hearts” of those who embrace their community.
I hope that we can stretch a virtual red ribbon throughout Newberry County, and all the while remember that the magic to reduce underage drinking is in our hands and hearts.