Schools focus on facts during Red Ribbon Week
Social worker Stacey Robertson applauds after Nora Paul talked about what she learned during a school assembly for Red Ribbon Week at Brooks Middle School. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:14AM
OAK PARK — Drug education and awareness is being heavily discussed at schools in Oak Park and River Forest.
School officials said a realistic and truthful Red Ribbon Week was recognized at Brooks Middle School last week.
“This year we wanted to create a much more meaningful experience for our kids and get them involved in researching and drawing their own conclusions as to why they should be drug free and encourage their friends to do the same,” Social Worker Stacey Williams-Robertson said.
Officials believe Red Ribbon Week has been more of a celebratory event in the past, and although fun events such as crazy hair day and wearing your shirts backwards were still included, the goal was to discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
“All of us really wanted to make sure there was substance to the week instead of simply filling an obligation,” Principal Mike Michowski said.
The theme for the week was “The Best of Me is Drug Free.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 31, the day focused on choosing to be drug and alcohol free. There were interdisciplinary activities, including the history of Red Ribbon Week in each classroom.
In gym class, students participated in physical activities that simulated what it might feel like to be under the influence, experiencing blurred vision and poor coordination.
The day ended with an assembly featuring Oak Park-River Forest Township Youth Services staff, including Township Youth Services Director John Williams, Youth Interventionist Robert Simmons and Youth Interventionist Melissa Petrowski.
The assembly focused on local ordinances regarding drugs and alcohol, support that is available for youth, peer pressure and a motivational talk to discover the greatness in each student, to help them make a difference by choosing to remain drug and alcohol free, Williams-Robertson said.
“We want our students to gain high self-esteem as soon as possible, since middle school is such a crucial age,” eighth grade Assistant Principal Lindsay Pietrzak said.
Oak Park-River Forest High School also celebrated Red Ribbon Week in October.
“Education and prevention are extremely important for us based on the unfortunate prevalence of alcohol and drug use in Oak Park and River Forest,” Principal Nathaniel Rouse said. “Clearly, there is an experience that is different in our communities relative to students experimenting with drugs and alcohol.”
Rouse believes Red Ribbon Week is an important part of prevention.
Other drug prevention programs are offered at OPRF, such as the suspension-reduction program, which provides counseling and awareness for students and parents, Students Against Destructive Decisions and Snowball.
Social and emotional learning has been emphasized in River Forest School District 90. A pilot program, Second Step, is in all three River Forest schools.
The program includes about 30 lessons throughout the year focusing on good decision making, self-image, drug prevention, anti-bullying and more.
“Education is key,” Student Services Director Martha Ryan-Toye said. “These important issues such as self-esteem go hand-in-hand with drug prevention.”~.