Red Ribbon program focuses on giving kids tools to refuse drugs, alcohol

Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 9, 2017

Special to the Post

LANDIS — What do red ribbons, jelly beans, and Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten have in common? They were all present at the Red Ribbon event held at Corriher-Lipe Middle School Nov. 1.

The National Family Partnership organized the Red Ribbon Campaign in 1985 as a national program to serve as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.

At Corriher-Lipe in Landis, nearly 100 students participated in the activities which included “Bean Boozled,” “My Stress/What Helps” and “Wheel of Misfortune.”

YSUP! Rowan (Youth Substance Use Prevention Rowan), a newly-funded initiative by the Federal Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant, and the Center for Prevention Services facilitated the event along with Nicole Hartley, Corriher-Lipe’s intervention specialist.

Sheriff Kevin Auten guided students through the Bean Boozled game. There were ten jars of jelly beans which had the same colors but different flavors like chocolate pudding/canned dog food, buttered popcorn/rotten egg or caramel corn/moldy cheese.

Students could spin a wheel to determine which color jelly bean to pick and then eat it. The question was, “Do you want to the risk?”

Most students paused to think. Some walked away. Others took the risk. Within seconds, it was obvious by their expressions which students got a nasty surprise and needed the nearby trashcan.

“I think you have more impact any time you can interact with kids in a smaller group,” Auten said.

Bean Boozled served as a way to encourage young people to stop and think about risky decisions, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

“It’s not worth the risk when it comes to substance use,” Auten told the students. “These days you don’t know if drugs or alcohol are really what they appear to be. Marijuana can be laced with dangerous ingredients such as fentanyl. Drug dealers do the same with pills. It’s scary and against the law but making the wrong decision can have serious, sometimes deadly consequences. So, don’t take the risk.”

Submitted photo Sheriff Kevin Auten leads Corriher-Lipe Middle School students in a risk-taking game of ‘Bean Doozled’ durign the Red Ribbon event.

Amy Riecken of the Center for Prevention Services helped students at the My Stress/What Helps activity table. Students wrote their stressors and how they deal with them on red paper ribbons. All the ribbon notes were strung together and will be displayed at the school.

“I really enjoyed this first YSUP! Rowan event,” Riecken said. “Everything worked well, better than we expected. It was really cool watching the middle school kids and law enforcement interact in such fun and meaningful ways.”

Hartley agreed. She has been at the middle school for five years, with both professional and personal investments in promoting positive outcomes for youth.

Hartley was impressed with the interactive activities and the reactions of participating students. “The most important thing for our students today is to know that someone really cares about them,” she said.

Former school resource officer at South Rowan High School for five years, Brandon Linn is now the middle school SRO. He sees some unmet needs at the middle school level.

“We really need more clubs and organized groups, like the ROTC, for our middle schools,” he said. “If youth are involved in safe and healthy activities, they are less likely to get in trouble.”

Karen South Jones, executive director of the Rowan County Youth Services Bureau, said, “Each time we share the risks and consequences of substance use with young people is an opportunity to equip them with information and tools to refuse drugs and alcohol.

“Events like this, with the collaboration of schools, law enforcement, prevention organizations and youth-serving agencies, are shining examples of how we can help parents keep their children safe, healthy and drug free.”

For more information about YSUP! Rowan, contact Liz Tennent, project manager, at 704-633-5636, ext. 106, or email