LEAD’s Red Ribbon Week Inspires Positive Lifestyles, Healthy Choices
Week devoted to raising awareness to the dangers of teen substance abuse.
Jamie Morrow knows the message would be lost if it was coming from an adult.
But as a board member of Focus, a select group of student leaders at Lake Forest High School, Morrow said the anti-substance abuse messages come across as one peer talking to another.
"The fact that so many students are working together to make a difference is really going to help things," said Morrow, who is one of many volunteers to have decorated the high school's halls, handed out red stickers and posted local substance abuse facts in bathrooms for a new Social Norms Campaign effort called "Letters From the Loo."
The efforts are part of Red Ribbon Week, which began Oct. 25 and runs through Sunday. Focus has teamed up with the high school's SADD chapter (Students Against Destructive Decisions) to help kick-off the community-wide calendar of events featuring guest speakers Michael Brandwein (Oct. 26) and John Underwood (Nov. 2), speaking to parents and students about techniques for open home communication, and the physical and mental consequences of substance use.
"It's all about empowering the kids to make healthy decisions for themselves," noted Joanne Yorro, CROYA (Committee Representing Our Young Adults) Service and Outreach coordinator. "By helping raise awareness in schools, students will have the opportunity to help and lead each other, then give parents the chance to listen and guide them at home."
CROYA assists by helping students become involved in group activities and be part of a system where teen leaders positively influence their peers.
Red Ribbon Week was founded by LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs), an organization formed to combat the mounting exposure students were having to drugs and alcohol in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Since 1991, LEAD has coordinated programs, workshops and events designed to educate both children and parents on the consequences of drug use, the advantages of sobriety, and strategies for healthy home communication.
LEAD collaborates with local law enforcement, schools and other community groups, unifying the effort to provide kids with a substance free environment.
LEAD uses results from a local version of the Illinois Youth Survey to strategize new programs and keep the fight against substance abuse current and effective. Taken every two years by 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade students, the survey collects detailed information on student's exposure to drugs and alcohol.
For the first time, this year's survey included all high school students, along with 6th and 8th graders.
"We are very excited," said LEAD executive Director Betty Bailey at the Feb. 10 Community Leaders Luncheon. " It will give us a much better sense of what's happening in this dramatic increase and where it's going."
To end the week on a fun note, LEAD sponsors the Red Ribbon race at Elawa Farms at 9 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 7). Race proceeds will go to LEAD activities and initiatives.
"This year's race is an important part of the week," Bailey said. "Everything LEAD does gears toward teaching parents how to talk to their kids and set limits. The race is a way to bring everyone together to help those conversations happen."
For more information about LEAD, visit www.leadweb.org.