Red Ribbon Week Promotes Healthy Lifestyles
Students throughout the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District are more knowledgeable about living healthy lifestyles after participating in the National Red Ribbon Campaign, Oct. 22-26. Established by the non-profit organization National Family Partnership, the campaign aims to heighten awareness about the dangers of destructive behaviors and promote good choices.
Students and staff throughout the entire District wore red for a day to promote awareness of the campaign and brought in canned food to reinforce positive behavior by thinking of others. Various age-appropriate lessons and activities were also conducted in each school throughout the week.
Oyster Bay High School distributed red ribbons, conducted a blood drive and a “Do Hugs Not Drugs” day to encourage good choices, but what made a visible impact on students was an assembly from the organization Teen Truth. Keynote speaker Mr. Michael Sarich shared his life story as a drug addict who turned his life around, with hopes of keeping students from making the poor decisions he has made in his life. A rising baseball star, Mr. Sarich shattered his golden opportunity to play major league baseball when the death of his father led him in a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol abuse. His story resonated with his teen audience as some shared how their families have been negatively impacted by drug and alcohol abuse, and others stayed after the assembly to speak with him privately. A parent presentation was also given in the evening.
“To me it was surprising (how students reacted) because people who normally wouldn’t care about this presentation asked very good questions; they were all paying attention,” said Oyster Bay High school senior Gia Gerken, president of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) for grades 9-12 who introduced Mr. Sirach at the assembly. “He’s a very truthful person and I think the way he speaks and how honest he is hit home with the crowd of students that were here today.”
This was Mr. Sirach’s second visit to Oyster Bay High School. His first was four years ago.
High school social worker Mr. Matthew Brown said he hopes the take away from this event is that “students have the power to make good decisions and can keep themselves and their friends out of harm’s way.”
“What I hope most of all is that they realize that there is help around them,” Gia added. “They shouldn’t be afraid to approach someone, whether it be a peer or a staff member; they should feel comfortable, realizing that there is hope.”
In another sobering ceremony, students gathered for Grim Reaper Day in which a gong was rung every 31 minutes, signaling a student volunteer to symbolically die as the actual events of their death were announced.
For younger students at both James H. Vernon and Theodore Roosevelt schools, the focus was on kindness and treating each other with dignity and respect. Students participated in Random Acts of Kindness for “Kindness Matters Day,” wore team jerseys for “Nothing Beats Kindness Day” and pajamas for “Dreaming of Kindness Day.” Students also participated in Box Out Bullying assemblies, which featured interactive theatrical performance with colorful characters who taught students the importance of taking a pro-active approach to anti-bullying and demonstrated evidence-based bullying prevention techniques.
Websites, such as www.drugfree.org, were also shared with parents for tips on how to speak to their children about drugs and alcohol in a developmentally appropriate way.
Pictured with Mr. Michael Sarich from Teen Truth is, from left, Principal Ms. Sharon Lasher, Oyster Bay High School social worker Mr. Matthew Brown and Oyster Bay High School and Roosevelt School social worker Ms. Migdalia Rosario. In first row are SADD officers Carolyn Poppe, Sam Lingen, Sarah Pantina and Gia Gerken.
Messages of kindness are featured on bulletin boards in Vernon School during Red Ribbon Week and throughout the year.
Students at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School display the cans of food that were collected for “I Can, You Can Be Kind Day.”