For first-grader Maria Tortorelli, a recent game of toss drove home the point of what it’s like to attempt everyday activities under the influence of drugs.
The Böblingen Elementary/Middle School student had little difficulty tossing a yellow rubber ball back and forth with a classmate — that is, until eighth-grade “Red Ribbon role models” instructed each of them to try doing so while standing on one foot and with one arm behind their backs.
“It was hard because I couldn’t catch it,” said Tortorelli, 6. “If you do drugs and act like that, you won’t be able to catch the ball.”
The activity was part of the Red Ribbon Week anti-drug lessons taught by a dozen eighth-graders at BEMS to the school’s elementary students on Oct. 25. The eighth-grade students, trained by counselor Jasmin Coty of Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Services, shared their passions for activities ranging from swimming to building miniature model airplanes, and stressed how using drugs would impair their abilities to do these things and more.
Student mentor Claire Levitt recalled the impression the eighth-graders’ Red Ribbon Week presentations made on her as a fifth-grader. “I knew some of them and wanted to listen to them and do what they said because I could relate to them,” Levitt, 13, said. “I was thinking if I did drugs I wouldn’t be able to go to the Olympics. I’ve been swimming since I was 7 years old.”
Red Ribbon Week, celebrated Oct. 25-29 in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart schools, featured a variety of Spirit Week activities, with themed days such as “I See No Drugs In My Future!” in which students could wear sunglasses to school, and “Doing Drugs is Wacky!” in which students opted to wear mismatched clothing.
“Students get excited dressing up and announcing to the world they’re staying drug-free and living a clean, healthy lifestyle,” said Ann Pugh, volunteer campaigns and prevention coordinator for Army Substance Abuse Program in USAG Stuttgart.
“In dressing up for a different cause every day, I think students really start talking about it with their parents and opening up communication … between the parent and the child and other siblings,” she added.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique Camarena, who was killed in 1985 while working undercover in Mexico investigating a drug ring. The annual Red Ribbon campaign began as a way of commemorating Camerena and heightening awareness of drug prevention.
This year’s national slogan for Red Ribbon Week — “I am drug-free” — is a simple, yet powerful, message, Pugh said. “It’s a back-to-basics focus with longevity,” she said.
Each year, third- through fifth-graders in the garrison compete in a slogan contest, with the winning one at each school used during the following year’s Red Ribbon Week activities. Pugh said slogans used this year were: “Drug User? You’re the Loser!” (Patch Elementary), “Don’t Follow the Rest … Be the Best” (BEMS), and “Always Be Drug Free” (Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School).