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Behind the Red Ribbon 

Monday, October 18, 2010 9:00:00 AM


Next Monday will mark the 25th straight year students have added a splash of red to their everyday attire as schools across the country will participate in the National Family Partnership’s (NFP) Red Ribbon Week October 23-31, 2010. This year’s theme for the United States’ oldest and largest drug prevention event is “I am drug-free.” The drug-free message behind each red ribbon worn by students across the country is well known, but the reason behind the week is not.  
The catalyst for the Red Ribbon Campaign’s desire for a drug-free America began after the abduction and subsequent death of Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. Camarena, a former Marine, was working undercover in Mexico while investigating a large drug cartel when he was reportedly abducted by five men in broad daylight while on his way to meet his wife for lunch. Camarena’s body was found a month later with evidence to support the fact that he had been tortured to death.
Upon joining the DEA, Camarena’s mother reportedly tried to talk him out of it due to concerns for his safety. His response to her was, “I’m only one person, but I want to make a difference.” Community coalitions decided to use Camarena and his statement that one person could make a difference as their model and inspirational mantra in the fight against drugs. Thus, the satin red ribbon was adopted as a symbol to honor Camarena’s memory and the mission he gave his life for.
The look of Red Ribbon Week may have largely changed from ribbons to wrist bracelets, but according to NFP’s website, the mission of the week remains the same - to provide an opportunity for people and communities to take a visible stand against drugs by making a personal commitment to a drug-free lifestyle. paxUnited® supports Red Ribbon Week and is firmly committed to creating a drug-free environment in schools. paxUnited’s involvement in Red Ribbon Week has included everything from conducting alcohol, tobacco and other drug presentations to students to assisting the DEA in large community events.
An important component of paxUnited’s award winning Peers Making Peace© peer mediation program and Positive Action Center© peer mentoring program is to enhance communication among today’s students so that drug detection and prevention strategies can be effectively implemented. Dr. Susan Armoni, Executive Director of paxUnited, said the agency’s peer-led programs try to create a caring environment where students can turn to each other and other caring adults on their campus instead of turning to a substance that will induce a temporary high, but will also destroy their lives.
 “The use and abuse of drugs is the result of young people wanting to avoid dealing with their life issues: feeling unworthy of being loved, feeling insignificant, feeling alone, and on and on,” Armoni said. “Our mediation and mentoring programs give youth safe places and caring peers to work these issues out without negative judgments and with care and respect.”
paxUnited hopes you will remember Kiki Camarena as you wear your ribbon next week, and the great sacrifice he made to eradicate drugs.
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