Painting the town red

Grand Futures Director coordinates Red Ribbon Week

— This week, Chad Kiniston is seeing red, and he hopes it's contagious.

The Moffat County Grand Futures Director coordinated Red Ribbon Week with the Moffat County School district. Red Ribbon week is a national initiative of prevention and education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

To kick off the week, Kiniston sent out a press release citing a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study that focused on the numbers of teenage tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

Among the statistics: "On any given day, about 1.2 million American teens smoke, 631,000 drink alcohol and 586 use marijuana. On any given day, 8,000 adolescents try alcohol for the first time, 4,300 try their first illicit drug and 4,000 light up their first cigarette. On an average day, almost 50,000 teens use inhalants, 27,000 use hallucinogens and 13,000 use cocaine."

"These numbers are staggering," Kiniston said. "It is a real eye opener when you look at statistics and realize the enormity of the problem that communities, parents and youth face across America. That's why programs and events like Red Ribbon Week are so important to our community."

Grand Futures receives funding from a federal grant as well as local fundraising efforts for the week. The money is provided to schools, and they are allowed to choose how it is uesd.

"We have a couple of elementary schools that purchased booklets for students to take home and fill out with their parents," he said. "Other funds go to purchasing awards for contests relating to Red Ribbon Week."

On Friday, Craig Intermediate School named the winner of a poster contest called, "Tune Out Drugs." More than 115 students participated in the contest.

"We only had 30 to 40 participate last year," Kiniston said.

Craig Middle School students participated in Red Ribbon Week by teaching elementary school students about the effects of drugs and alcohol.

At the high school, the student council researched statistics and put them in the announcements every morning.

"A lot of my work that goes into Red Ribbon Week has to do with coordinating with each school on what will be the best use of funding for each group of students," he said. "It might not sound like a lot, but nearly every student in the district is reached with the message."

Kiniston said that there are also events that will go on outside of the week. Grand Futures sponsored a Fifth Quarter after the second home varsity football game of the year. Fifth Quarters are positive events for high schoolers on weekends. Grand Futures will also hand out candy and information during Trick-or-Treat Street in Downtown Craig on Halloween.

The younger students all receive red bracelets to remind them of what they've learned.

"Locally, we face many of the same problems that are faced in major cities, so it's just as important that we have this program," he said.

Red Ribbon Week was initially organized in 1986 by an organization of parents concerned about the destruction caused by alcohol and drug abuse. The red ribbon was adopted as a symbol of the movement in honor of Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, an agent with the United Stated Drug Enforcement Administration who was kidnapped and killed while investigating drug traffickers.

Kiniston said this is the last year that Moffat County Grand Futures is eligible for the federal grand that helps fund Red Ribbon Week. Next year it will be all locally funded.

"We really hope to increase our budget for expand the week's outreach," he said. "Donations are always welcome to help it continue."

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