Red Ribbon Week was Oct. 23 through the 31st this year. This week is celebrated each year and is the largest and oldest prevention/awareness program for alcohol and drugs in our country. The first Red Ribbon campaign was in 1988, and President Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Nancy Reagan were the honorary Chairpersons. Initially this was to honor Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was tortured and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico in 1985. This year’s theme is “Be Happy. Be Brave. Be Drug Free.”
Locally the Goochland and Powhatan Rural Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition (RSAAC) teamed up with Goochland County Public Schools Youth, Staff, and Community Leaders to host a virtual teen-led event about what it means to Be Brave and Drug Free for Red Ribbon Week. “We hope to help and lead our communities by sharing information, thoughts and examining the issues concerning drug and alcohol misuse and abuse” said Brad Luxford, RSAAC Committee Member.
Youth who spoke during the event addressed the unique pressures they face during 2020, what it feels like to attend school virtually, and the reminder to adults and each other about the importance of taking breaks. One student created a powerful film, “What I Stand to Lose,” in which she described her personal reasons for avoiding drugs. A student from Goochland Middle School discussed her thoughts on protests and racial tension while addressing the need for resources to be distributed with intention “in the right way.” Another student, speaking about students with mental health needs, reported that “it hurts when people think they are trying to get attention.”
“This virtual event was significant for RSAAC and all partnering organizations because community leaders were able to hear the wisdom and insights of our youth” says Robin Pentecost, RSAAC member and Behavioral Health and Wellness Supervisor at Goochland Powhatan Community Services.
During the week, students learned about substance abuse and misuse in their health classes. This information centered on the trickiness and unique qualities of the teenage brain. These qualities are important to human development, but also make the adolescent brain more susceptible to becoming addicted to substances. Also, the risk taking part of the brain develops before the risk assessment part, which sets up young people to make poor and/or risky decisions.
The event took place virtually Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Goochland High School (GHS) and included a forum that united GHS students and faculty, community leaders and other professionals. All of these people are committed to helping keep our community drug free. The following speakers gave brief talks: Goochland County Fire-Rescue Chief Ferguson; Sergeant Lancaster, Goochland County Sheriff’s Office (GSO); Sergeant Ryan Leabough, GSO; Deputy Scott Leabough, GSO; Coach Justin Fitzgerald; Virginia Poison Center Education Specialist, Fiorella Carhuaz; GHS Nurse, Kent Duffey; and RSAAC Chairman and Goochland’s Commonwealth Attorney, Michael Caudill.
For more information about RSAAC and upcoming events, visit www.rsaac.org and follow the Coalition on Facebook.