During the week of October 23rd, students at the Bellows Falls Middle School celebrated the spirit of being drug-free by participating in “Red Ribbon Week” activities. Sponsored by the National Family Partnership, the Red Ribbon Campaign has touched the lives of millions of people around the world for over thirty years.. In response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drugs in America. The Bellows Falls Middle School’s “Above The Influence” (ATI) group meets weekly with Student Assistance Program counselor, Heather Waryas, and focus on delivering an intentional message about the risks and consequences of drugs and alcohol, while also educating their peers on healthy alternatives. The ATI members, comprised mostly of 5th and 6th graders, led a 40 minute school assembly on Monday morning that concluded with every student in the school receiving a water bottle that read, “The power lies within me to be drug free.”
The ATI members developed and promoted “Spirit Days” for Red Ribbon Week that featured a different message each about living a drug-free life. Students and staff members alike dressed up for the Red Ribbon Week spirit days! Mrs. Waryas said, “the enthusiasm for our Red Ribbon Week spreads throughout the school because it is student-led.” The ATI members chose the themes, voted as a group on spirit days, and did all the promoting and sharing of the drug-free message. The ATI motto is, “Anything that makes me less than me, is not for me, especially drugs or alcohol.” Mrs. Waryas says that throughout the year, ATI conducts many school-wide activities and campaigns, but the support for Red Ribbon Week is always a highlight. She also noted that it takes a very brave student to stand in front of the entire school and present a school assembly and that this ATI group did so with poise, confidence and FUN!