Students say “no” to drugs, alcohol, and violence

Red Ribbon Week takes place each October, with schools across America participating.  Donning a red ribbon, many students will pledge to live drug free, as part of on-campus activities.  Sponsored by the National Family Partnership, Red Ribbon Week is a popular time for schools to address substance abuse as well as violence and bullying prevention.

For youthspeakers like Jeff Veley, Red Ribbon Week is an opportunity to talk about how to stop social aggression and improve mental health. This helps students focus on their goals and consider how destructive behaviors can be a distraction.  “I love the opportunity to go into schools and talk about relationships and stressors.  No one wakes up and decides that they want to be a drug addict or that drinking will solve their problem.  While we often label peer pressure as the cause, many times students turn to destructive behaviors because they lack positive coping skills.  My hope is that students will hear my message and understand that there are other ways to ‘feel’ and ‘deal’, that won’t lead them down a path of trouble or failure.”

Tips for Planning Red Ribbon Week Activities

1. Develop a leadership team to oversee activities.  It’s often better to have a small group that takes responsibility than to involve many.
2. Download free resources from the Red Ribbon Week website.  Take time to meet and be inspired by what others are doing.  This will help focus your efforts.
3. Start planning a central event early on (this is the climax of the week.  If you want to host a speaker, you may need to book them 3-12 months in advance.  If the speaker you want is not available this year, book them now for next year.
4. Let the students lead.  A small passionate group of students who take ownership can impact an entire campus.  Plus, peer-to-peer education on this topic is incredibly powerful.  It allows students to see that their fellow classmates are making healthy decisions and inspires them to do the same.

Veley and his colleagues describe Red Ribbon Week as one of the busiest weeks of the year.  “Each year, we receive many requests for student assemblies.  It’s challenging because the schedule fills quickly and unfortunately we cannot reach everyone in-person. I reserve a full week for virtual events. This allows me to reach schools in an entire city state, with just a single presentation.”

Veley has built a professional broadcast studio for this purpose. Through technology, he’s able to bring students live onto his virtual stage. “We know that there’s going to be an influx of requests, so each year we come up with creative solutions.”, says Veley.  “Through technology and strategic partnerships, we are able to help more schools and reach more students with these important messages.”

To learn more about Red Ribbon Week and download free resources, visit www.RedRibbon.org
To reach Jeff Veley and his team, visit www.JeffVeley.com

Article by Jim Scott, the Campus Peace Initiative