Students throughout the United States participated in Red Ribbon Week from Oct. 23 through Oct. 31. Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 in Calexico, Ca. as an effort to honor slain DEA agent Enrique Camarena.
“I asked the teachers at South Edgecombe Middle School to generate ideas they could use to raise awareness for Red Ribbon Week,” said Blake Tucker, assistant principal. “They brainstormed ideas for lesson plans with me that could be incorporated into their homeroom classes. From these conversations, we also decided to hold a canned food drive for the Wesley Shelter of Wilson.”
The Wesley Shelter is a private, nonprofit United Way agency where victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or rape are able to find support for themselves and their children. Because the month of October was also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the staff and students at South Edgecombe Middle School were able to creatively weave together activities for Red Ribbon Week and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In each grade level, teachers followed lesson plans for each homeroom, raising awareness for the week. Students learned about the history and origin of Red Ribbon Week, focusing on problematic areas each day like marijuana, binge drinking, smoking and prescription drugs.
To raise money and secure items for the food drive, students were encouraged to participate in themed dress days. On Oct. 24, students wore boots for ‘Give Drugs the BOOT Day’ and Oct. 25, students could wear jeans to celebrate ‘I am a JEANious Day,’ a symbol of being drug free. Students wore camouflage on Monday for ‘Drugs Can’t Find Me’ Day and brought canned goods on Tuesday, suggesting that ‘I CAN be Drug Free.’ Finally, students dressed in their favorite sports team shirt for ‘Team Up Against Drugs Day’ on Oct. 31.
Lynne White, the Executive Director of the Wesley Shelter, was grateful for the support from South Edgecombe. “The Shelter’s safehouse stays at full capacity much of the time; 21 women and children,” expressed White. “Feeding the shelter residents, as well as those we serve who don’t need shelter but are struggling financially, is a daily constant. Your support will enable us to fulfill our mission of ‘Ending Violence-Rebuilding Lives.’ Thank you for helping us!”
Eighth graders Courtney Dail and Yancey Coltrane were touched by the drive. “It is so exciting to be a part of something like this and to know that it is going to such a good cause: to people that really need it,” said Dail. Coltrane added, “It’s so great to contribute to this amazing organization that helps people who seem to be in such great need of it.”
The students, parents and staff members at South Edgecombe Middle School collected over 600 non-perishable items and $300 in contributions for the Wesley Shelter.
In an address to the students, White acknowledged that teaching children about issues and bringing awareness to them is critical. “Due to the statistics, it is very likely that some of them may live in a home where violence or some sort of power and control is present,” said White.
She also said it is crucial to give students information about these issues and agencies that are available to help families. “It is also important to teach about charity, being grateful for what we have and for helping those less fortunate. The activities sponsored by South Edgecombe Middle have encompassed all of these critical life lessons.”
The Wesley Shelter provides emergency shelter, crisis intervention, life management courses, children’s services, a rape crisis program and a Hispanic outreach program that also serves the women and children in Nash and Edgecombe Counties. White says the donations will make a considerable impact when it comes to feeding families.