Red Ribbon winnings wonderful
Volunteers gave out red stuff: apples, Kit Kats, Twizzlers and even red flash-drive bracelets, all to raise awareness for Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program held yearly during the last week of October.
The tradition is to wear red ribbons in honor of undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. An 11-year DEA veteran, Camarena was tracking the largest marijuana and cocaine traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico.
On Feb. 7, 1985, Mexican drug traffickers kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered Camarena, leading to a focus on the dangers of the drugs and the drug trade’s international scope.
“I have more passion now because of where [Red Ribbon Week] came from,” said Vanessa Lewis, Health Promotion Programs and Education (HPPE) coordinator. “I’m happy to remember [Camarena’s] name and all the hard work he did. It’s the reason for the season.”
The season found its roots not long after Camarena’s death. Congressman Duncan Hunter and Carmarena’s high school friend Henry Lozano founded Camarena Clubs in Calexico, Calif., Camarena’s hometown.
Hundreds signed pledges to lead drug-free lives in Camarena’s honor. These pledges were delivered to Nancy Reagan, who encouraged community groups to wear the red ribbons, prompting the first Red Ribbon Week in Norwalk, Calif., and the first National Red Ribbon Week in 1988, chaired by Reagan and coordinated by the National Family Partnership (NFP).
Tynesha Ivory, Spanish and criminal justice double major, and Trojan Talk member, volunteered at a table Friday, using Kit Kats to lure students strolling by.
“I get to reach out to students who see the ribbons and ask questions,” she said. “It’s like a social networking system because you see so many people every day.”
The NFP estimates more than 80 million people participate in Red Ribbon Week events each year. Usual activities include essay and poster contests, organizing drug-free races, decorating in red, handing out red ribbons, holding parades and promoting the value of a drug-free lifestyle.