By Patrick McCreless
The Alexcitty Outlook
Students had a change of pace Monday as area schools kicked off the beginning of Red Ribbon Week.
Throughout the week, schools all over the country will have different events each day designed to help keep children off drugs.
"We feel like it gives them a good introduction to drug awareness," said Marilyn Lewis of the Alexander City Board of Education.
Lewis also said because of this and other programs, she has seen the number of students who have used drugs decrease.
"We had to wear camouflage and there was an assembly at the high school to kick off Red Ribbon Week," said Dadeville's Councill Middle School counselor Melanie Mckinney.
According to Mckinney, students were encouraged to wear camouflage to symbolize "combat against drugs."
Tuesday, students will be allowed to wear baseball caps so they can "put a cap on drugs," Mckinney said.
United We Stand will be the theme for Wednesday as students wear red, white and blue clothing. Also that day, Chris Graebe from MTV's reality show "Road Rules" will speak about drug prevention.
Alexander City schools are having similar programs. Monday's theme was "Shade out drugs day," in which students got to wear sunglasses. Tuesday will be "Team up against drugs day," where all students can wear their favorite sports team's paraphernalia and on Wednesday, students are asked to bring canned foods that will be donated to charity.
Also visiting schools this week in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week is the Alexander City Police K-9 unit, according to officer James Orr. "Our K-9 unit will be there for a demonstration with our drug dogs," Orr said.
"They will demonstrate how the dog does various searches and different exercises."
And if that weren't enough, during the week, students at Jim Pearson Elementary School will get to celebrate the 25 birthday of Mcgruff the crime dog on Wednesday.
Visiting the school, says Lewis, will be Mcgruff, his nephew Scruff as well as other characters.
"They're going to give some safety messages to the kids plus some drug awareness information," Orr said.
Red Ribbon Week began in 1986 in honor of Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique Camarena, who was killed while trying to uncover the identities of key members of a Mexican drug cartel. Angered over his death and the destruction of drug abuse, people from his hometown of Calexico, California began wearing red ribbons. Other organizations soon picked up on the movement and encouraged others to wear ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to fight the use of illegal drugs.
For more information about how to get involved in Red Ribbon Week, visit the National Family Partnership's web site at National Family Partnership's website.