History of Red Ribbon Week


Grace Drawdy

Mrs. Burnell and Ms. Frankel stand in front of wings constructed in the counselor’s office from the feathers students made for Red Ribbon Week . The two counselors worked together on the events that occurred October 23 through the 30th.

Lauren Holiday, Feature Editor

Red Ribbon Week is a drug awareness campaign that occurs annually in October and that began in 1985. The campaign was put into effect after the murder of a 37 year old Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. Enrique had received a transfer order to Mexico, where he would work out of the Guadalajara Resident Office in 1981. His first undercover mission dragged out for four years. He came extremely close to unveiling a multi-billion dollar drug trafficking ring, but before the operations could be made public he was kidnapped on February 7, 1985. Enrique had been surrounded by five armed men in front his wife, and was thrown into a car which sped off and marked the last time he would be seen alive. One month later his body would be found and it was determined by forensic investigators that he had been tortured to death.

Shortly after Kiki’s death, Congressman Duncan Hunter, and high school friend Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Kiki’s hometown of Calexico, California. Hundreds of club members including Calexico High School teacher David Dhillon wore red ribbons and pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Kiki Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans.

In response to Enrique’s murder, friends, family, neighbors, and the parents and youth across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused by drugs in America.

In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. Since that time, the campaign has reached millions of U.S. children and families. The National Family Partnership (NFP) and its network of individuals and organizations continue to deliver his message of hope to millions of people every year through the National Red Ribbon Campaign.

Red Ribbon Week eventually gained momentum throughout California and later the United States. In 1985, club members presented the “Camarena Club Proclamation” to then First Lady Nancy Reagan, which brought it to the nation’s attention. Later that summer, parent groups in California, Illinois, and Virginia began promoting the wearing of Red Ribbons nationwide during late October. The campaign was then formalized in 1988 by National Family Partnership, with President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons. Today, the eight-day celebration is sponsored by the National Family Partnership (previously known as the Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth), and has become the annual symbol of  intolerance towards drugs in our schools, workplaces, and communities. Each year, during the last week in October, more than 80 million young people and adults show their commitment to a healthy, drug-free life by wearing or displaying the Red Ribbon.

The campus celebrated Red Ribbon week from the 23rd to the 30th of October. Every day of the school week there were theme days that correlated to the national campaign’s theme, “YOLO. Be Drug Free.” Even with these themed days Red Ribbon Week was voiced over the announcements, Twitter, and every lunch period throughout the week. In the lunch periods ribbons and stickers were handed out by counselors, and lunch ladies served red every day. “We try to let y’all know what’s going on and be aware that even one pill can kill you,” Counselor Ms. Fickle said.

For the past ten years Red Ribbon Week had been celebrated on campus. Two years ago, two recovering addicts from No Longer Bound came to speak with students in the school in an assembly; one speaker was a former student of South Forsyth. This year, the week before Red Ribbon Week (during the PSAT testing), two moms with students that passed away came and spoke to students about their kids, opioid usage, and its potential harms. The counselors always encourage the kids that if they have a friend that they’re worried about, even if it’s drinking or vaping, taking pills or marijuana, they should come tell them. They’re never going to tell who told them; if students have a situation where they need to speak with an adult then it should be known that everything is confidential. “Kids are aware of what’s out there because we’re in an epidemic right now,” says counselor Ms. Fickle, “If we can help one person, that’s great.”