Red Ribbon Week: Dress up part of anti-drug message
October 31, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Nerds and hippies attended classes at Patriot Elementary School recently.
The student dress-up events were part of Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 21-25, an annual nationwide campaign aimed at preventing alcohol, tobacco and drug use.
Each school in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 chose their own activities for the week.
"The district has a proclamation. They ask us what we're doing every year," said school counselor Holly Niewinski.
The activities at Patriot were decided on by the Young Professionals Club, the school's student council.
"The criteria I give them is that it has to have a slogan that has something to do with not doing drugs," she said. "They have to have some kind of a theme and a slogan to carry it out. They have to be able to tell me, 'I want to do this because it's giving this message.'"
Activities for the week included nerd day, "Be smart. Don't do drugs;" '70s day, "Say peace out to drugs;" and career day, "Don't make drugs your future."
Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 in memory of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was murdered in Mexico. Wearing the red satin ribbon became a symbol of the commitment to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drugs, according to the website, http://redribbon.org.
The campaign has changed over the years from the "Just Say No" messages of the '80s.
It's been a necessary change in an era when prescription drugs are advertised on television.
"I'll have (the children) pick out the good drugs from the bad drugs in a picture. Of course, the answer is, you can't pick them out because good drugs look like bad drugs, but you should only take them if your doctor prescribes them. (That) makes them a good drug. So I get to take that moment and make it a teachable moment," Niewinski said.
In the beginning, the focus of the week was on drugs, but in recent years, the focus has expanded to include bullying and making good choices, she said.
"We talk about the positives, and talk about making good choices … If you put it in the perspective of choices, then the kids get it," she said. "Sure, as an adult, I can go home and have a glass of wine, if I choose to. But if I drink the whole bottle of wine, is that the best choice?"
The focus on choices, rather than just saying no, is critical to a positive outcome.
"If someone tells (you) not to do something, then that's what you want to do the most," she said.
With the anti-bullying message, Niewinski focuses on the victim rather than the bully.
"If you take it in the perspective of victim proofing, making the kids who are normally the ones who are bullied stronger, and to not be victims, I think you have a better response … because you're teaching these kids to be assertive," she said.
Another important lesson Niewinski tries to instill is about consequences.
"If you talk about moderation, and you talk about making good choices, if I choose to wear flip-flops, and it's snowing outside, what's going to be the consequence?" she said.
She tells a story about her friend who was prescribed medication, but didn't take it and fell asleep at the wheel.
"I use (that story) for making good choices," she said. "Sometimes you have to take med