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Red Ribbons and Walking Shoes

Share "We have a core group of families that attend almost everything we do; however, there is always a little uncertainty with something new," reported Betsy Taylor, parent involvement facilitator for John B. Cary Elementary School. "I have to say that while I was greatly impressed by the number of students and families participating in the Red Ribbon Week Community Walk, I believe that I was most surprised by the true enthusiasm shown. From the time our families started arriving, we were surrounded by laughter and smiles, and you could almost feel the anticipation and excitement. They supported both the school and the message one hundred percent."
Principal Ron Holloman goes
to great, and short, lengths
to keep kids drug free.

The Hampton, Virginia, school emphasizes its commitment to helping kids stay drug-free with a group walk and an entire week of events. There is a simple and unique theme for each day. Monday is "Drug Free Pledge Day," when the whole school recites a drug-free pledge together during its televised morning announcements. (Individual classrooms are encouraged to recite the pledge independently many times throughout the week.) Red satin ribbons are also provided for students to wear. Tuesday is "Sock it to Drugs Day," and everyone is asked to wear wild socks. Many of those who take part roll up their pants for better viewing, adds Taylor.

Mismatched clothes are the suggested attire on Wednesday, which is "Drugs and I Don't Mix Day," and Thursday is the day of the actual Red Ribbon Walk. Participants meet at 4:30 for cheers, a history of the event, and the walk, and the afternoon ends with pizza for the crowd. "School Spirit Day" is held on Friday, with administrators, teachers, and students dressed in the school colors of red and white.

"One of the most memorable moments of the event for me was the sight of our families walking around the track together with their red balloons," Taylor told Education World. "The group could be seen from a distance, and I felt almost overwhelmed by the feeling of community."

Red ribbons remind the kids to
stay smart and avoid drugs.
After the walk, one faculty member took note of a conversation in a grocery store that afternoon. A group of customers were discussing the "really fun" event that was going on at the school and the "crazy man" in a dress. "It was said that it was nice to see a school that cared so much about the kids and the families," said Taylor. "The 'crazy man' in the dress is now our principal, Ron Holloman, and he lives his commitment to our students and families daily. He will not hesitate to dress as a cheerleader, dodge water balloons, dance, or sing as long as it's for our kids!"

Assessing the success of Red Ribbon Week is a difficult challenge, but Taylor feels that the message to remain drug free is being taken seriously. What is for certain is that the students and the community are aware of the school's commitment to the cause. The faculty and staff are united in the effort. Taylor credits her principal as well as Candace Gray, the school counselor, with helping to make the event possible. She recommends the activity, which has become a signature event at John B. Cary Elementary, to all schools.

"With a little planning, an event like this is easy to do and is very rewarding," said Taylor. "If your budget is limited, offer snacks and drinks instead of dinner or obtain a partner to underwrite the food portion of the event. This year we are very excited about adding 'I've Got Better Things To Do Than Drugs Day,' a hula hoop contest, a memorize-the-pledge contest, and additional entertainment."

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