Two-year-old EleaSiana Sanchez holds balloons during Sunset Elementary’s Red Ribbon Week parade. (Il issa Gilmore Photo)
Record Staff Writer
The south side of Ros-well’s main street got a splash of red to offset its desert landscape Monday as Sunset Elementary kicked off Red Ribbon Week with its annual parade.
Dressed in red shirts and clutching red and black balloons, students, along with faculty and volunteering family members marched from the school, located at 606 O’Connor Road, to a park near the Roswell Industrial Air Center.
Red Ribbon Week is a nationwide effort to educate children of drug use and abuse.
Diane Taylor of the Chaves County DWI Program said the week and its events are important because drug abuse “starts at a younger age than it did 10 or 15 years ago.
“Every family is affected by drug use; it is of epidemic proportions,” she said. “It’s only by changing attitudes, behavior and education that we can make a difference. Every tragedy can be prevented by making the right decisions.”
Every school in Chaves County participates in the anti-drug campaign, but “no other school in the county does it this way,” said principal Mireya Trujillo.
Classes from K-5 carried banners decorated by students featuring slogans such as “Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My—Drinking, Smoking, Drugs, Goodbye!” while chanting anti-drug statements: “Be smart, don’t start!” Mariana Federico, 11, held one of the signs from the fifth-grade class, reading “Don’t do drugs. We’d Rather Eat Bugs” on one side.
Accompanied by the Roswell High band and cheerleaders from Mountain View Middle School, the parade had a pep rally atmosphere, drawing roadside onlookers and honks from passing cars.
Members of the police and fire departments also were on hand to lead the parade and block off the southbound side of the road for safety. State and city officials, including Sen. Tim Jennings and Mayor Pro-Tem Jason Perry walked alongside students.
Jennings, who playfully teased students with his balloons, said the message of Red Ribbon Week is important because once kids start using drugs and alcohol, it increases their chances of being in accidents. “This is where it all has to start,” he said.
The involvement of upperclassmen from other schools, he felt, was good for kids to see and learn by example.
Marci Sanchez, of Roswell, also saw having the cheerleaders as role models as a good idea. Overall, she said the program was “awesome.”
“It’s a good way to reach out to people and get the message out about not using drugs,” she said.
A parent of two students at the school, Sanchez marched alongside the parade, pushing 2-year-old daughter EleaSiana in a stroller. The girl swatted and played with balloons tied to her seat.
After reciting the “Character Counts” pledge to be a fair, respectful and responsible person, the students released their balloons, dotting the blue sky with red and black.
Throughout the week, the school has a different activity planned; Wednesday, students are encouraged to wear their favorite hat to “Put a Lid on Drugs”; Thursday, they will wear their shirts backwards to “turn your back on drugs”; and on Friday, K-2 students can bring a stuffed animal for “Hugs Not Drugs Day.”