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Red Ribbon Week Promotes Healthy Living

Lessons on making positive choices and living healthy lifestyles took place throughout the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District in support of Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 21-25. The national campaign, launched by the non-profit organization National Family Partnership, heightens awareness about the dangers of destructive behaviors and the importance of making good decisions.


Schools taught age-appropriate lessons centered on the theme “I Believe in Me—Happy, Healthy and Drug-Free!” Focusing on “wellness,” elementary school students at both James H. Vernon and Theodore Roosevelt schools worked on physical, mental and social fitness each day of the week with activities that promoted exercising and eating right, mindful breathing exercises, and performing random acts of kindness, which included a canned food drive.

 unity day at vernon  3rd and 4th assembly on healthy living  

At left, Vernon social worker Denise Ferrazano and Principal Dr. Valerie Vacchio wear orange for Unity Day, a day devoted to bullying prevention and acceptance. At right, Vernon 3rd and 4th graders listen to an assembly about healthy lifestyles by the LICAAD.

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, each school marked Unity Day, a national campaign that brings students and staff together by wearing the color orange in support of bullying prevention. Students at Roosevelt participated in a “Healthy Living” assembly with youth motivational speaker, world champion athlete and author Mr. Chris Poulos, and students at Vernon participated in presentations from the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD). The 3rd and 4th graders explored healthy coping skills and positive relationships with their peers during a “Healthy Decision-Making” assembly. The 5th and 6th graders examined the dangers of vaping and learned how to make better choices for their well-being during the “New Trends and Vaping” assembly.

Chris Polous with TR students  Chris Polous does a bmx stunt  Chris Polous talks about inclusion Theodore Roosevelt students learned about respect, inclusiveness and perseverance from BMX cyclist and author Mr. Chris Poulos. He also wowed the crowd with several BMX stunts!

Oyster Bay High School kicked off the week with a presentation by Mr. Caleb Campbell of the Teen Truth organization, which focuses on empowering students’ voice and building a positive school culture. Mr. Campbell discussed how his life as an NFL football player took a downward spiral due to drugs and alcohol, and offered advice on what students could do to prevent the same from happening to them.

 Teen Truth presentation  Teen Truth presentation with Ms. Lasher  

Pictured with Mr. Caleb Campbell from Teen Truth are, from left, Oyster Bay High School social workers Ms. Migdalia Rosario and Mr. Matthew Brown, and Principal Ms. Sharon Lasher. At right, Ms. Lasher addresses the students to get input about how staff can better meet their needs.

“Sometimes the people with a constant smile on their faces are the people who are suffering the most,” Mr. Campbell said. “You would never know it, unless you found the courage to stand up and be vulnerable enough to give people an inside look into your own life.  When you show what it looks like to live a vulnerable and transparent life and lead from the front, you give the other people around you the ability to do the same…It’s about using your own voice to make a difference.”


His presentation led to a deeper discussion between students and Principal Ms. Sharon Lasher about how staff could better help students with their issues and concerns.

 Grim Reaper Day  students with placards for grim reaper day  grim reaper in circle

Students gather in the gym lobby for the culmination of Grim Reaper Day. Students with placards circled the lobby and invited their peers to read their real-life descriptions of how they died.

The high school’s most sobering event, Grim Reaper Day, drove home what could potentially happen from drug and alcohol abuse. The event, coordinated by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and advised by social worker Mr. Matt Brown, is a solemn reminder that young people’s lives are tragically lost every 31 minutes. Throughout the day, a gong is rung every 31 minutes and a student, wearing a sign describing real-life events that led to his or her tragic death, symbolically dies. The students wearing the signs then come together in a culminating event, forming a large circle in the lobby so that their peers could read the signs that describe their deaths. Throughout the week, high school students also participated in a food drive, a blood drive and an Open Mic Night with the theme “Do Hugs, Not Drugs.”


Schools shared resources with parents, such as the website, for tips on how to speak to their children about drugs and alcohol in a developmentally appropriate way.


Many thanks to Oyster Bay High School social workers Mr. Matt Brown and Ms. Migdalia Rosario, Vernon School social worker Ms. Denise Ferrazano and Theodore Roosevelt social worker Ms. Yennifer Muriel for coordinating the Red Ribbon Week activities and to the PTAs for their support in sponsoring the assemblies.