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Vallecitos celebrates Red Ribbon Week

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Red Ribbon Week is held annually in late October to promote drug use prevention and awareness. Vallecitos Elementary School had Red Ribbon Week events all five school days Oct. 23-27.

"I'm really proud that we were able to educate them here to make good life choices because each decision they make can affect their whole life," said Vallecitos Principal Michelle Peace.

Red Ribbon Week was first proclaimed by the United States Congress in 1988, although some Red Ribbon Week campaigns began during the previous three years. Drug use prevention and awareness campaigns now address drugs which didn't exist in the 1980s or whose potency has changed since Red Ribbon Week began.

"I've learned about the effects of cannabis on the youth mind and basically reasons why we shouldn't do it, how it's changed over the years," said Vallecitos sixth-grader Alexander O'Halloran. "Anything can be coated with fentanyl, too."

"Do not touch them," said Vallecitos second-grader Isabella Lopez. "It's bad for you and it can get you sick."

"Drugs are dangerous because they create lasting health effects," said Vallecitos fifth-grader Rodolfo Ramirez.

Tobacco and alcohol are illegal drugs if the user is under 21 years old. "I'm learning about nicotine, and it's bad for you," said Vallecitos third-grader Victoria McLaughlin. "It's pretty bad for you. It has a lot of poisons in it."

Throughout the week, doors in each classroom as well as the cafeteria had anti-drug posters. Those posters became part of a "best poster" contest. The "Hocus Pocus Drugs Aren't Our Focus" poster created by the third-grade class Yeraldi Hernandez teaches was selected as the best poster from the TK-3 grades. The fifth-grade class taught by Natasha Koelkebeck had a clown with a balloon which received the best poster recognition for grades 4‑8.

On Oct. 23, the Sheriff's Department sent a K9 unit to Vallecitos for a demonstration on drug detection. "We have a good working relationship with Lt. Delgado and she was able to set that up for us," Peace said.

(Claudia Delgado is the commander of the Sheriff's Department substation in Fallbrook.)

The Oct. 24 "Walk the Line" session had students wearing goggles to simulate the effects of drugs and then attempting tasks. The "Hugs Not Drugs" theme Oct. 25 involved the cafeteria providing students with cookies as part of their lunch.

Vallecitos and five other schools participated in the Oct. 26 Vallecitos Soccer Tournament. The Vallecitos district and school staff utilized that opportunity for a "Kicking Drugs to the Curb: Healthy and Drug-Free Kids Score Goals" theme.

During the morning of Oct. 27, parents and guardians were invited for a talk with Peace and Vallecitos School District Superintendent Meliton Sanchez on hopes for their children's future and how the school can support the children in achieving their dreams. That evening's "High in Plain Sight" presentation for parents included a presentation from Delgado on how children are hiding illegal drugs. "The parents know what devices to look for," Peace said.

The Oct. 27 evening activity also included a presentation from North Inland Substance Use Prevention on the dangers of fentanyl. Each participant was given a dose of naloxone, which can reverse the loss of breathing in the event of an opioid overdose.

"I'm excited. Lots of fun stuff happening here," Peace said.

"It's a different world that these kids are living in now," Peace said. "Drugs have become more dangerous, and there is so much misinformation."


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