Students from from Sunset Elementary and Sidney Gutierrez Elementary ready for the annual Red Ribbon Week parade, Thursday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Red shirts swarmed South Main Street as more than 600 elementary school kids and parents marched in a parade. Two miles in the afternoon sun, but the children didn’t seem to mind. Even in their exhaustion, little voices yelled out, “Be drug free! Be drug free!”
Police officers, including the Sheriff’s Department and the State Police, as well as Roswell firefighters marched with the kids and acted as escorts for the parade.
It was a cause they all tackled with enthusiasm: teach the children to be drug free. This was all done through the traditional Red Ribbon Day Wednesday.
“We have to start teaching these children the dangers of peer preasure (starting) in elementary school,” explained Diane Taylor, the Chaves County DWI Program prevention ppecialist. “We have to give them the tools to stay drug free and alcohol free to protect them so they can have better futures.”
Her excitement wasn’t hidden at all. The Red Ribbon Day of celebrating and walking is something Taylor looks forward to every year, since the program started almost 10 years ago.
The whole focus was family-oriented, involving parents and the community.
With the Roswell High band leading the way and Mountain View cheerleaders motivating kids, the parade began from Sunset Elementary. The school itself was closed as every student and faculty member joined ranks.
“It’s about recognizing the need to educate children and their families,” explained Principal Mireya Trujillo. With the school motto being “One family under one sky,” Sunset really tries to help the children grow both academically and socially, filling them with values to be successful, Trujillo said.
And parental involvement added greater volume. Parent Lisa Federico has walked in the parade for the past five years with her kids.
“It means educating our children,” she said. “About bringing awareness of the harm of drugs.”
As the kids finished their trek, they clumped together in their red shirts, each holding a red balloon, to watch some presentations including a performance by the University High dance team.
Less visible, but meaningful, each child held a piece of paper in his or her hand. On that paper they had written a message — a commitment — to be drug free, or not drink and drive, or some related goal. These goals were then tied to the balloons and released. Hundreds of red balloons gathered in the sky, reminding the students and everyone watching that they were aiming to say no to drugs.
The students, no matter how young, all understood what they were celebrating.
“Never take drug pills,” third-grader Noe Martinez advised.
“Never take drugs because you could die,” added on another third-grader, Jorge Chavez.
But third-grader Jose Jurado summed it up best: “We’re going to be drug free.”