Mt. Pleasant’s crystal clear blue sky was dotted with red balloons Monday, as Harlan Elementary School students released the balloons as a pledge to stay drug free as a part of Red Ribbon Week.
Red Ribbon Week is a nationally recognized campaign to influence drug prevention efforts. The red symbolizes an empowerment for communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. This year’s theme is “Life is a Journey, Travel Drug Free.”
Before releasing balloons Monday, Oct. 22, Harlan Elementary students heard from special guests including Elroy the Elk from the Elk Lodge, Henry County Sheriff’s Office deputy David Wall and his dog Uno and Mt. Pleasant Community School District Superintendent John Henriksen.
“It’s all about making good choices,” Henriksen said to the students from kindergartners to fifth-graders. “Sometimes when it’s a hard choice to make … to do the right thing is easier when you have some support.”
To demonstrate his point, Henriksen brought up a fifth-grader and Harlan principal Michael Gossen. Handing them each an end of a rope, he told them to play tug of war. Gossen easily pulled the fifth-grader all the way over to his side. Henriksen then had the fifth-grader bring up three of his friends. As the four of them played tug of rope against Gossen it was no contest. They won easily.
“When you have the support of good friends, you can get the job done,” Henriksen said.
Next, it was Wall’s turn to take the floor with his seven-year-old German shepherd Uno. Wall’s message mirrored Henriksen’s as he talked to students about how their good choices can help change the world and make it a better place.
Students said they can make the world better by using their Panther PRIDE and showing people respect and empathy, having integrity and doing their best.
“In your lives, you are the author of your book, and how do you want it to be? Positive or negative?” Wall asked students who resoundingly answered “positive.”
After the assembly, Wall said being present at school events like Red Ribbon Week is a good way to show the community that law enforcement cares about helping people and their job is more than arresting people.
“Good choices start with the younger generation,” Wall said. “I’m a very positive person, so I try to change one person’s day for the better and put a smile on their face.”
Students ended the assembly by filing outside, a red balloon in each hand.
“We want kids to have that foundation to put the right foot forward growing up,” fifth grade teacher Samantha Freeman said.
Fourth grade teacher Ashley Hoyer said she wants her students to know they have people at Harlan they can come to who will support them and encourage them to be drug free.
Students will continue to learn the message of Red Ribbon Week through activities this week. Harlan Elementary students will tie red ribbons to the trees, spell something on the fence in red cups and will participate in a walk-a-thon Thursday as another reminder to stay drug free.