From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 45 - November 8, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Red Ribbon Week a success

by Jennie Oemig

Last week was Red Ribbon Week for the middle and elementary schools in Pinedale, with students celebrating their healthy choices and pledging their commitment to live their lives free of drugs.

Elementary school counselor Peg Carney organized the events for the week at the elementary school and said she was pleased with the way things turned out.

“It went well for the first time,” she said, acknowledging that this was the first time the elementary school had participated in Red Ribbon Week activities for quite some time.

With the week’s theme being “Drug free is the healthy way to be,” Carney said students at the elementary school participated in a poster contest and signed stars pledging to be drug free. Carney said physical education instructor Jar Mortenson coordinated her curriculum to go along with the Red Ribbon Week theme as well.

And during art classes, the children drew pictures of the healthy choices they were making in their lives.

Also during the week, Deputy Joe Ahlstrom of the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) was invited to speak to students about the dangers of using drugs.

“I really look forward to coming here for Red Ribbon Week,” Ahlstrom said, greeting the fifth- and sixth-graders at the middle school last Thursday morning. As the school resources officer and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) instructor, Ahlstrom started the presentation by asking the students to name as many types of drugs as they could. Garnering responses like “pot,” “crack,” “meth,” “whiskey” and “pills,” he acknowledged the children’s awareness before asking them what kind of effects drugs can have on people.

“They make you feel different,” one student remarked.

Though many people associate drug abuse with illegal narcotics, Ahlstrom explained that all drugs have the potential to be bad for you.

With a variety of drugs out there, Ahlstrom quizzed the children on the different ways of obtaining drugs, asking them what the acronyms OTC and Rx stood for. He then explained that over-the-counter medication, as well as prescription drugs can be habit-forming as well, especially when people take a stronger dosage than what is prescribed.

After going through and describing the information found on prescription labels, Ahlstrom showed a D.A.R.E. video about drug addiction to the students.

During the video, many teenagers shared their testimonials about the dangers and addictive nature of the substances.

One of the focuses of the video was the story of a promising 16-year-old athlete who took a lethal dose of two medications, thus resulting in his death. The boy’s mother and friends were interviewed and discussed how those events had altered their perceptions about drugs.

“That happened in May of this year,” Ahlstrom informed the audience about the youth’s death, denouncing the myth that most of the informational videos shown in similar programs are outdated.

Explaining that some people, maybe due to naivety, don’t think that small towns are prone to problems such as drugs, Ahlstrom refuted that belief.

“People think it can’t happen in Pinedale or in Sublette County … ,” he said. “But it’s here. It’s happening.”

Middle school principal Kevan Kennigton said he couldn’t have been happier with the way the Red Ribbon activities went. “It was an excellent week,” he said. Knowing how much work was necessary to make Red Ribbon Week a success, Kennington acknowledged the organizational efforts put forth by counselor Carolyn Normington and parent Tammy Hersom. “We probably planned for a good week before we pulled it off,” Normington said. Overall, Normington said she was also very pleased to see all of her hard work pay off.

“I think it was a really great week to raise awareness about drug and alcohol issues,” she said.

In addition to wristbands being handed out to the children and an essay contest being held, Kennington said the most powerful tool to get the kid’s attention was the presentation by Ahlstrom.

“Officer Joe was great,” Kennington noted, adding that the children really listened to him and were very receptive of what the teenagers in the video were saying. “The kids were very, very somber.”

Realizing just how effective the presentation was, Kennington said he approached Ahlstrom afterward and inquired about doing more activities that deal with social activities in the future.

“We need to do this every quarter,” Kennington said of his desire to continue teaching kids about the dangers of using drugs. “ … We need to do more.”

The high school will be acknowledging Red Ribbon Week from Nov. 12 to Nov. 16, said organizer Darlene Hallam.

“We’re just gearing up for it,” she said, adding that the week’s focus will be on the misuse of over-the-counter drugs and prescription medication.

In addition to presentations during physical education classes and by the SCSO, Hallam said a parent’s night will be held on Nov. 15.

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