Red Ribbon Week Fosters Healthy Living
According to the Illinois Youth Survey of Maine Township High School students, in 2016, approximately 30% of District 207 students said that they have used alcohol and approximately 12% said that they have used some form of marijuana.
Despite recent declines in use, substance abuse still remains an issue among high school teens. Addressing this concern, students and staff at West will host Red Ribbon Week next week. An annual event lasting from Oct. 24-28, Red Ribbon Week aims to raise awareness about substance abuse by providing students with a wide range of during and after school activities to take part in.
Although differing from many conventional drug and alcohol awareness activities, the events provided by Red Ribbon Week will provide students with many healthy alternatives to substance use. Sara Wadhwa, the Family Center director and one of the week’s sponsors, said that “in the past, people would just say ‘no to drugs’ or ‘don’t do this’, but I think the reality is that there are people who will make the choice to experiment. However, what we want people to know is that there are other choices out there and there are healthier options of things that people can do.”
With this in mind, a host of different dress up days and after school activities have been planned in order to provide students with an encouraging alternative to substance abuse. Monday kicks off the week with after school zip-lining and a dress-up theme of sports team wear to “team up against drugs”. From there, after-school yoga will be on Tuesday, with the dress up theme of Pajama Day to “keep calm and relax.” Wednesday brings after school kickboxing. To be “twice as strong against drugs,” students should dress like a classmate and be “twins” for the day. Thursday’s dress up theme claims red, the color of the week, in order to spread awareness about the cause. Students will also be able to participate in the full-day Run and Walk, as well. Finally, Friday concludes the week with a dress up theme of Maine West spirit wear. With much to offer, many look forward to the fun that the week will provide. “It really brought people together,” said junior Bianca Mando regarding last year’s zip-lining activity.
Yet, the enjoyment and education aren’t limited to the students at West.
Wadhwa particularly looks forward to Thursday’s Run and Walk, as she says that “the best part about it is that the Plainfield Elementary school students come over and they get really into it and super excited. I think they like the feeling of being with the big kids.”
Being able to set the example is a major theme of the upcoming week and also a primary focus of WADA (Warriors Against Drugs and Alcohol), led by seniors Hannah Schill and Vincent Wong, who are preparing for their Red Ribbon Week field trip to the district middle schools. “Usually when we go to the middle schools we do a lecture first and then go around tying ribbons around the trees near their schools to promote Red Ribbon Week and make the neighborhood aware of what’s going on too,” Wong said.
Recognizing that it is often difficult to convey the message of a substance free living to all students at West, Schill and Wong remain optimistic about the opportunity Red Ribbon Week provides to share their message with a more impressionable audience. “Here in the high school, among your peers, it’s difficult to get the message across, but it’s different when you go to the middle schools where everyone is excited to listen,” Wong said. “ I enjoy knowing that it makes a difference for them like it made a difference for us in middle school,” said Schill
Regardless of the audience, the importance of awareness and education about drug and alcohol usage remains undoubted. “If you’re going to reach the goals and dreams that you have, you’re going to have to make the right choices,” health teacher Joan Hare said.
Looking beyond the week, Wadhwa hopes that students will “remain aware of the diversity of lifestyle choices and stay motivated in maintaining a healthy life.”