Students across the Barstow area will show their friends, students and that they are drug free as they celebrate Red Ribbon Week every day this week.

Barstow Unified and Silver Valley Unified students will join millions of kids across the country as they celebrate this year's theme, "I Am Drug Free." This year's Red Ribbon Week campaign focuses on the dangers of prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs.

"That's been such a rise in what our students are being exposed to these days," said Diedre Burcham, who is coordinating Red Ribbon activities for BUSD. "They're getting their drugs of choice from their parents' medicine cabinet."

Many schools have already started their Red Ribbon celebrations with assemblies. BUSD teachers have also encouraged their students to participate in the poster and essay contest sponsored by the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce. Red Ribbon Week activities will culminate with a breakfast at 7 a.m. Oct. 26 at the Barstow Masonic Lodge.

Chamber President Mark Sielski offered the writing contest to students from grade five to 12 last year. This year he expanded the contest to include all grades. Kindergartners and students in first- and second-grade are designing posters instead of writing essays.

The deadline for the writing contest was Friday. Posters will be on display at the breakfast. Writing contest winners will also be announced.

"We'll have posters up and everybody who comes in gets a ticket and they get to vote for their favorite poster," Sielski said. "The winner of (the contest) is going to get a classroom pizza party donated by Straw Hat Pizza."

The Red Ribbon Week message for students at the junior high level at Hinkley School will be about prescription drugs. Each teacher will have a different message for each day of the week, said principal Diane Kammeyer.

At the elementary school level the message is simpler: Don't do drugs, don't take alcohol, don't smoke. Students also hung banners at the school's entrance and in its multi-purpose room proclaiming their commitment to remaining drug-free.

"We are also getting red cups to put in the fence to do a message," Kammeyer said. "We're going to do two different messages, one for elementary and one for middle school."

At Cameron Elementary School the Marine Corp Logistics Base gave a presentation about inhalants, said Principal Cari Mauldin. They also handed out goodie bags with pens and pencils with a Red Ribbon Week theme. Fifth-graders districtwide have been designing placemats to display at the breakfast.

Students with Silver Valley Unified School District will also participate in Red Ribbon Activities, including a door-decorating contest at Fort Irwin Middle School.

Congress established Red Ribbon Week in 1988 when Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Enrique Camarena was tortured and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico in 1985.

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(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com