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franklin county times

S.P.A.N. observes Red Ribbon Week

Fire marshal Justin Green encourages S.P.A.N. program students to see the seriousness of drug usage during Red Ribbon Week activities.
Fire marshal Justin Green encourages S.P.A.N. program students to see the seriousness of drug usage during Red Ribbon Week activities.

YOLO, or “you only live once” has become the iconic mantra of people – particularly young people – for living big and taking risks. But the national Red Ribbon Campaign is using the sentiment to encourage young people to be drug-free: a platform Franklin County S.P.A.N. program has gotten behind in force for this year’s Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-31.

Red Ribbon Week, a program of the Red Ribbon Campaign of the National Family Partnership, is an annually-held drug prevention and awareness program established, according to redribbon.org, in “response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena.”

“Angered parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused by drugs in America,” the website explains. The destructiveness of drugs was a message S.P.A.N. Program Coordinator Remona Roberson and staff counselors wanted to share with their students as well.

“We talk to them about drugs all the time,” explained counselor Pam Armstrong, who organizes Red Ribbon activities each year for S.P.A.N.

“Nowadays the way students who use are experimenting with drugs and being so careless … Our message is that it will kill you,” Roberson added. “There have been plenty former students who have left our program and died from drug use. We have seen it firsthand.”

For this week’s observance, students participated in dress up days to match drug awareness themes – like wearing pajamas for the slogan “Put Drugs to Sleep” or donning backwards shirts for “Turn Your Back on Drugs” and also adorned doors with the saying “Close the Door on Drugs” and garbage cans with “Drugs are Trash.” Special guest speakers also visited the students to warn against drugs, like Russellville fire marshal Justin Green, who shared his own story with students Monday.

“If it gets one of them to quit doing drugs, it’s worth it,” said Green, who urged the students to avoid drug usage, seek help and support and make every effort to attain at least a high school diploma or high school equivalency degree, in order to secure a fulfilling future. He shared with the students how he himself strove to overcome drug usage, get away from negative peer pressure and pursue his education and his future. “One of these kids might open up and see ‘If I stop doing drugs, maybe there’s an opportunity to do something else.’”

S.P.A.N., the Special Programming for Achievement Network Program in Franklin County, aims to meet the social and academic needs of “at-risk” youth and their families. In partnership with the Juvenile and Family Court Probation Services and local school systems, S.P.A.N. provides comprehensive and cost-saving approaches to meeting the needs of at-risk youth and collaborates with the Franklin County and Russellville City school systems. The program operates out of the basement of the First United Methodist Church in Russellville.

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