The OECD has developed an online toolbox to help schools organize activities related to Red Ribbon Week, which officially begins this weekend and runs through October 31.
Established in 1988, Red Ribbon Week is the largest program of its kind in the country, encouraging students to lead healthy, drug-free lives. A new theme is unveiled each year, prompting schools to host youth forums, health classes, Spirit Day events, role-playing sketches, art projects and other activities.
In addition to hosting a Red Ribbon Week workshop for student leadership groups, the OECD again organized a digital warehouse for schools with suggestions for activities, events, presentations, training, online resources and more.
Meanwhile, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is handing out special bracelets to local students, who can wear them for discounts and prizes at a number of participating businesses throughout the month.
If you are a student, educator, or otherwise connected to a neighborhood school, chances are you are familiar with Red Ribbon Week. But you may not be aware of its origin, especially the story of the man who inspired the campaign.
Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was a United States Drug Enforcement Administration agent working in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the 1980s. On February 7, 1985, Camarena, a former marine on the trail of a drug trafficking operation billion dollar, was kidnapped by five gunmen who forced him into a car as he left his office to meet his wife for lunch.
Camarena’s body was discovered a month later in the Mexican state of Michoacan. At 37, he is survived by his wife Mika and their three children.
Shocked and heartbroken, friends and neighbors mourned the brutal murder wearing red satin badges, and “Camarena Clubs” popped up in schools in Kiki’s hometown, Calexico. Meanwhile, parents formed coalitions to fight drug and alcohol abuse, and some of them adopted the red ribbon as a symbol of the DEA officer’s sacrifice and a commitment to pursue a drug free life. The move gained national attention when club members presented the “Camarena Club Proclamation” to First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Communities in California, Illinois, and Virginia began encouraging students to wear red ribbons in late October, and in 1988 the National Family Partnership organized the first National Red Ribbon Week. The eight-day event was officially chaired by President Ronald Reagan and the First Lady.
Make the difference
More than three decades later, millions of people each year wear their red ribbons, which now symbolize their commitment to healthy, drug-free lives, reducing the demand for illegal drugs – and the violence that accompanies them. This year’s theme is “Drug Free, Looks Like Me”.
The Orange County Board of Education endorsed Red Ribbon Week with a resolution affirming the importance for schools and communities to launch unified and visible drug prevention programs. Board members also encouraged the commitment of time and resources to ensure the success of Red Ribbon Week and other prevention strategies throughout the year.
And here is a final footnote on the story of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. According to Red Ribbon Week website, Camarena’s mother initially tried to dissuade him from joining the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. But Kiki believed she had found her calling.
“I’m just one person,” he said, “but I want to make a difference.”
For more information on local Red Ribbon Week activities, contact OECD Coordinator Elke Petras at 714-966-4458 or [email protected]