Red ribbon week, the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country, is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of making healthy decisions. At the middle and high schools, lessons and presentations during the week of October 24-28 highlighted the dangers of drug and alcohol use and promoted treating each other with respect. This year’s theme was YOLO – You Only Live Once.

One lesson included middle and high school students listening to motivational speaker Ken Bartolo tell the story of how drugs and alcohol ruined his life. An All-American lacrosse player, Bartolo lost his college scholarships and spent three years in jail due to his addiction. Bartolo shared his painful story and how he overcame his struggles.

Middle school guidance counselor Jennifer Tichy said the presentation was emotional and real. “We hope that students can see how drugs and alcohol do not discriminate,” she said. “We want them to understand how poor choices can ruin their dreams and hopes for their future.”

These are not new lessons for students. These topics are covered throughout the year, however Red Ribbon Week is an opportunity to reinforce these lessons with special programs that make an impact on students. High School psychologist Roseanne Grasso said the events throughout the week serve as vehicles to drug prevention and education, and a personal commitment to live drug-free lives.