By TEDDYE SNELL
When it comes to teaching children about the dangers of drug abuse, the Tahlequah community takes a vigorous, hands-on approach.
Oct. 28 through Nov. 1 is Red Ribbon Week – a time to celebrate drug-free living.
Val Dobbins, Safe Schools coordinator, Tahlequah’s Bringing Everyone’s Strengths Together recognizes the observance creates a fun environment in which children can learn.
“Red Ribbon Week is a nationwide initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol,” said Dobbins. “Activities [during this week] encourage students to make a pledge to live drug- and alcohol-free.”
According to Dobbins, Tahlequah Public Schools, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health, administers the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment every two years to sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.
“Students continue to report issues with underage drinking, tobacco, and marijuana use. Prescription drug abuse is also trending upward,” said Dobbins. “Students really have a lot of fun during this week, and hopefully, are influenced by the message of what this initiative promotes, which is to live a drug-free life.”
Activities are planned throughout the week at all four elementary schools and Tahlequah Middle School.
Greenwood Elementary School Principal Susan VanZant believes working with young students to create a positive environment is key.
“I think at a young age, students have a high goal of staying drug-free. They see it as important,” said VanZant. “But that message has to be consistent from year to year. They will be battling those peer pressures soon enough, and they need to have support from teachers, parents and friends to make good choices.”
In addition to fun, daily observances like wearing a favorite team shirt, or styling hair in a crazy fashion, Greenwood will have programs that focus on remaining drug-free.
“We’ll do things like the DARE program, and the school resource officer will share information,” said VanZant. “The school counselor will be providing some lessons, too. We do some little things, like planting tulips to make the students think about positive statements, just keeping it in their minds to stay drug-free and make good choices.”
Most local educators believe it’s never too young to teach kids the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
Pre-kindergarten students at Sequoyah Elementary will also be participating in Red Ribbon Week, according to Principal Tanya Jones.
“Our children at Sequoyah are at a most impressionable age; learning something new every day,” said Jones. This is the perfect time to start teaching them about good choices. Our world introduces them to many negative influences earlier and earlier in life. We need to teach them early to stand up and say ‘no’ to anything that may hurt them or their future.”