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Red Ribbon Week Kicks Off at Hanson Elementary School

Students pledge to be drug-free as part of a nationwide program, started in California by former congressman Duncan L. Hunter.

A student body of 580 youngsters in kindergarten through sixth grade helped kick off Red Ribbon Week at early Monday morning with promises from the students to lead drug-free lives.

Andrea Jones, a representative from Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s office in El Cajon, presented a certificate to Assistant Superintendent Cathy Pierce honoring (RUSD) for its “support and education of drug awareness and prevention during Red Ribbon Week 2011.”

The students, mostly dressed in bright red outfits, showed their school spirit in welcoming Jones and Pierce to their weekly gathering on the playground.

Principal Shelagh Appleman told the students about the history of Red Ribbon Week. It was started by Hunter’s father, Duncan L. Hunter who also was a congressman at that time.

In 1985, the senior Hunter, along with a high school teacher in Calexico, gathered to honor the memory of Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The agent, who had lived in Calexico, had been brutally murdered while working undercover in Mexico.

The red ribbons worn by the students at Calexico High School—the school from which Camarena had graduated—became a symbol for the prevention of illegal drugs being brought into the United States. Congressman Duncan L. Hunter took the pledges signed by the Calexico students to then First Lady Nancy Reagan.

The following year, Red Ribbon Week became a statewide program in California, Illinois and Virginia. Two years later, it was launched as a national program geared toward school children at all grade levels. It was organized by the National Family Partnership, proclaimed by the U.S. Congress and chaired by the First Lady.

All schools in the Ramona district will plan special events in recognition of Red Ribbon Week, which runs this year from Oct. 24 to 29. At Hanson School, Monday was declared “Wear Red Day.” Tuesday will switch to staff and students wearing camouflaged attire. On Wednesday, the theme will be “Jeans Day,” followed by “Hat Day” on Thursday and “Crazy Hair Day” on Friday.

The events are being organized by the PTA under the leadership of Hailey Herman.

“People younger and younger are starting to experiment with drugs,” Herman said. “We need to reach them at an early age.”

Before returning to their classrooms, a group of students was selected to be among the first to sign a mural in one of the hallways, pledging not to use drugs.

Teachers have prepared special lessons that will touch on the various aspects of drug prevention and to raise the awareness of the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

“It’s all about making good choices,” Appleman said.

“It’s all about education,” Pierce added.

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