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Red Ribbon Week is Oct. 22-29, and red ribbons have been distributed to each student in the Carroll County School system. The students have dressed in their favorite college attire, future career clothes, and today, they will be decked out in red.
Students in each school made “The Best Me is Drug Free” posters, many of which are displayed in over 20 businesses in Carrollton.
Law enforcement officers from the Carrollton Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Kentucky State Police will be navigating the halls of Head Start, Kathryn Winn Primary, and Cartmell Elementary to read in each classroom, share lessons about respect and responsibility and to warn our precious young students about the dangers of drugs. Students of all ages will be taking pledges to help stop bullying and to do their best to be drug free.
Students all over the United States will probably do similar activities during Red Ribbon Week to bring awareness to the dangers of drugs.
In Carroll County though, we need to make every day a Red Ribbon Day.
Every day should be an opportunity for our youth to be educated about the pitfalls of tobacco, alcohol and drug addiction. Parents, teachers, all school employees, preachers, coaches, neighbors; any caring adult can help empower and support our youth.
We can protect our youth from the leading cause of preventable death by educating them about tobacco.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco used by teens and young adults remains shockingly high in the United States. Today, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students smoke cigarettes. In fact, for every person who dies due to smoking - more than 1,200 each day - at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers. Nearly 90 percent of these replacement smokers try their first cigarette by age 18.
Adolescence is a period of critical cognitive and behavioral development. Drugs introduced during this time can lead to dependence and addiction. Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds, many of which are toxic. These dangerous toxins can cause numerous health problems, including DNA damage that can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, cataracts, peptic ulcers, early cardiovascular disease, and the list goes on.
What can we, as parents, educators, community leaders, a caring community do to help?
We can start by educating young people and help them make healthy choices. We can set an example; create an environment where smoking is the exception, not the norm. We can help them cope with their problems, refuse tobacco and quit if they are current users.
Red Ribbon Week has taught me several lessons. The most important is that it reminded me that we really do have many caring adults in our community that are concerned about our kids.
Every police officer, every business owner or community leader I approached about volunteering or displaying students’ artwork graciously agreed.
I hope our youth know some of these caring adults too.
Misty Wheeler is coordinator of Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County.