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ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam—Capt. Melvin Pilarca, Guam National Guard counter drug program, speaks to Andersen Elementary School Children during Red Ribbon Week here, Oct. 25. During Guam’s Red Ribbon Week, Captain Pilarca and his staff have briefed more than 10,000 children on the ill effects of using drugs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Wiseman/Released)
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Andersen students celebrate Red Ribbon Week

Posted 10/26/2011   Updated 10/27/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Whitney Tucker
36th Wing Public Affairs

10/26/2011 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Red Ribbon Week is the nation's oldest and largest drug prevention program, reaching millions of Americans during the last week of October every year. By wearing red ribbons and participating in community anti-drug events, young people pledge to live a drug-free life and pay tribute to Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enriqué "Kiki" Camarena, who was killed in February of 1985 while investigating a major drug cartel in Mexico.

In honor of Agent Camarena and Red Ribbon Week, teachers and students from Andersen Elementary and Middle Schools (AES, AMS) attended an assembly Oct. 25 here to educate students on the dangers of drugs, and the backlash abuse has on individuals, families and the nation.

"The challenges facing children today are the same as they have been for years," said David Mizelle, Andersen Drug Demand Reduction manager. "They continue to combat peer pressure, feeling the need to be accepted by society and their friends."
"These kids are our future and we need to protect and educate them because drug dealers and pushers don't care about their well being," he continued.

Throughout the year, individuals from the drug prevention program on base host a variety of events empowering children and adolescents to "just say no" to drugs. Students had the opportunity to compete in a drug awareness poster contest and participate in a demonstration that simulates what it is like to drive while impaired.

"We do different outreach prevention activities all year," Mr. Mizelle said. "At drug demand, we like to be active in all the different things that happen on base. With the elementary school this year we had the drunken buster peddle cart. It simulates what it's like to be under the influence as they try to perform day-to-day activities."

In addition to current programs, Mr. Mizelle has taken it upon himself to spearhead a new anti-drug initiative called Drug Education for Youth, or DEFY.

"This program will be geared toward Andersen's youth," he said. "Once in place, we will be able to get the word out to both the schools and the general populace."

Educating and informing children is essential to ensuring a healthy and drug-free environment for generations to come. Exposing the youth of today to the effects their choices will have on their future is vital in the fight against drugs and alcohol abuse.

"Talking to students about these issues at a young age is crucial," said Rebecca Leavey, AES teacher. "If we don't address tough issues when they're impressionable, we leave room for others to take advantage of that vulnerability."

"Red Ribbon Week teaches children to be more aware of their surroundings and what can happen when they make poor choices," she continued. "Our goal is to prevent these scenarios from ever becoming realities."

Echoing Ms. Leavy's sentiments, Mr. Mizelle encourages students to consider the outcome of their actions before making decisions based on peer pressure or impulse.

"This year's theme says it all, 'It's all up to me to be drug free,'" he said. "I want kids to know they have the power to make the right choices no matter what someone might say or do; the choice to live a drug free lifestyle remains theirs."

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