Red Ribbon Week, which was celebrated late last month, is the nation’s largest and oldest drug prevention campaign. Red Ribbon Week reaches over 80 million people each year throughout the United States as schools and communities across the country come together to demonstrate intolerance against drugs to provide drug awareness.

The impetus for Red Ribbon Week came about when a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, Enrique Camarena, was kidnapped and tortured to death. Before his death, Camarena had told his mother, “I’m only one person, but I want to make a difference.”

In 1985, Camarena was found in a shallow grave, having been tortured to death by members of a drug cartel. In response, people around the country wore red ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raising awareness of the negative effects caused by drugs in America. In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration. Several coalitions were formed in Camarena’s honor and embraced his belief that one person can make a difference.

RAZE clubs at Fayetteville and Valley High schools celebrated that week with several activities, including red ribbons being placed on teachers’ doors, middle school students being given ribbons to wear, the outside of the schools were decorated with red ribbons and students were given the opportunity to participate in poster and essay contest with this year’s theme, “Life Is Your Journey, Travel Drug Free.”

The winners of the essay and poster contests received gift certificates from Walmart in Quincy and Fayetteville, and from McDonald’s in Smithers and Fayetteville.

Valley High School winners were:

Essay contest — Kate Taylor, Crystina Rodgers and Alex Smith; and

Poster contest — Aleecea Weese, Brooke Wilson, Lilli Taylor, Noah Whittington, Hallie Smith, Brayden Sizemore and Michael Sizemore.

Winners at Fayetteville High School were:

Essay contest — Andrew Vaught, Kalilia Hames and Kaleigh Reynolds; and

Poster contest — Baleigh McNeely, Dessy Taylor, Aerial Johnson, Aleeza Rogers, Tony Brubaker and Katie McAllister.

Students in Fayette County Schools are becoming aware of the dangers of drugs and tobacco through programs such as RAZE.

In West Virginia, an estimated 4,280 people die from smoking each year. However, the American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows West Virginia could do more to save lives by implementing proven tobacco policies.

In 2016, West Virginia had the highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

A total of 1,008 West Virginia died of drug overdoses in 2017, according to updated statistics provided by West Virginia Health Statistics Center.

Although these statistics are alarming, RAZE will continue to make a difference as RAZE voices do matter, a local official said in a press release.

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