Students in Associated Student Body Director Mary Hazlett’s class were blowing up balloons, drawing and laughing Monday morning at Glendale High School.
But this was no party. The students were there working on the school’s annual observation of Red Ribbon Week.
After taking their pledge as a class Monday morning to be drug-free for life, the students were ready to invoke the pledge to the rest of their classmates during the lunch period. With balloons and red bracelets emblazoned with “I Believe In Me,” the ASB students made their way to the school’s quad.
Each classmate, after taking the pledge, received a red bracelet, a Red Vine licorice and a balloon, on which was written messages like “Crack Is Wack” and “Be Drug Free.”
“We are trying to keep our school peers away from drugs and alcohol,” said student and ASB member Cristine Dzhabrayan. “That’s mainly our purpose. We want them to stay away from stuff like that.”
Red Ribbon Week is observed all over the country through rallies, decorating buildings in red and handing out red ribbons to people. Community events and parades are also part of the observance. In the Glendale Unified School District, one or two schools, like Glendale High, opt to observe Red Ribbon Week a week before, depending on what fits with their schedules, said Sally Myles, Glendale Unified’s Safe and Drug Free schools/student support services teacher specialist.
Red Ribbon Week can be traced to 1988, when it was headed up by then-First Lady Nancy Reagan. According to the Department of Justice, the week honors the memory of Drug Enforcement Special Agent Enriqué Camarena, who was killed in Mexico while investigating one of the country’s biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers.
“The overall moral of the week is not to do drugs, and just be safe,” said Glendale High ASB member Hakop Oganasyan, 16.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the school will host a representative from the Tobacco-Use Prevention Education Program. Students will be able to view two pairs of lungs — one from a smoker and one from a nonsmoker.
“It’s that ewww factor, which is that different form of getting the same message across,” Hazlett said.
The administration also has put together five short lesson plans focusing on smoking, drinking, drugs and making healthy lifestyle choices, Hazlett said. These lessons will be discussed during the students’ homeroom period throughout the week. The school itself will also be covered in red ribbons.
For Hazlett, having her students recite the pledge honors the Red Ribbon Week experience and makes an impression in her students’ minds. And having her students in the quad, invoking the pledge to their classmates, makes an impression, even though other students may snicker and smile.
“Having us [ASB] do it, it’s like a chain reaction,” said student Trish Ann Nubla. “Our friends and other friends do it.”
Taking the drug-free pledge is no different from pledging allegiance to the flag, Hazlett said.
“I feel like they understand what a pledge is,” she said. “They understand what it means to commit to something, and we want them to feel the same way about the healthy choices they’re making for their lifestyles.”