BARSTOW • Red ribbons fluttered on the chests of students at the Barstow Masonic Lodge Tuesday while posters and place mats, decorated with more red, proclaimed their commitment to stay drug free.
Students from local schools and kids from the Barstow Police Department's Explorers Program were treated to eggs, bacon and sausage at the culmination of a week of celebrations for Red Ribbon Week. During the breakfast, students listened as their peers told them how drugs have affected their lives.
"I feel like (Red Ribbon Week) is a part of my tradition," said Dex Yarber, a senior and member of Barstow High School's Sober Club. "I've been involved in it since elementary school.
Dex, who spoke along with fellow club member Jordan Hodges, told the students that even though he and his family has struggled with drugs, he is going to play college football when he graduates.
This year's Red Ribbon theme is "I Am Drug Free: Lock Your Meds," focusing on the dangers of prescription drugs. Kathi Brant, a member of the Barstow chapter of Order of the Eastern Star, encouraged parents, teachers and administrators to put their prescriptions in a locked box.
Brant, who coordinated the breakfast, also encouraged students, parents and teachers to not give up on those who are struggling with drug addiction. A family member had been on the street for 15 years struggling with drug addiction, she said. But he's been clean and sober for four years.
"If we're willing to stick with the person we love, they'll come back and be a vital member of the community," she said.
During the ceremony, Mark Sielski, president of the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce, announced the winners of the chamber's poster and essay contest. After kicking off the contest in 2009 for grades 5 through 12, Sielski decided to include all grade levels.
Kindergartners, first- and second-graders designed posters. Students grades 3 through 6 wrote about what Red Ribbon Week meant to them. Seventh- and eighth-graders wrote about how they promote the principles of Red Ribbon Week in their day-to-day life. And high school students wrote about how they promote Red Ribbon Week in their community.
The winner of the poster contest will receive a pizza party. Essay contest winners will receive a gift card.
Courtney Verrill, also a senior at Barstow High School, said promoting Red Ribbon Week is good for the community. During the week, members of the Sober Club deck the school out in red ribbons and will be holding a pep rally Wednesday.
Courtney said she's also had family members who have smoked or done drugs. These are members of her distant family, she said, but when she sees them she always tries to talk with them about what they're doing.
"(I tell them) how it affects everyone around them," she said.
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