LEONARDTOWN, MD – On October 23 through 31, 2020, St. Mary’s County Public Schools in partnership with St. Mary’s County Health Department will recognize the National Red Ribbon Week Campaign in all St. Mary’s County Public Schools. This year an emphasis will be placed on the importance of drug misuse prevention through messaging delivered during school lunch distribution.

Materials will be distributed along with school lunches to students during scheduled lunch pick up times at their schools. The educational materials distributed will focus on the importance of understanding the risk associated with drug and substance misuse and encourage them to “Be Happy, Be Brave, Be Drug-Free”.

This partnership has traditionally recognized National Red Ribbon Week for many years with activities and learning opportunities in all schools.

Red Ribbon Week began after the kidnapping, torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki Camarena in 1985. Camarena had been working undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico for over four years. His efforts led to a tip that resulted in the discovery of a multimillion-dollar marijuana manufacturing operation in Chihuahua, Mexico. Corrupt politicians working for drug traffickers kidnapped Camarena and his pilot, Captain Alfredo Zavala-Avelar (taken separately on the same day).

After the men were found murdered, citizens in Camarena’s hometown of Calexico, California donned red ribbons in his honor. The red ribbon became their symbol for prevention in order to reduce the demand of illegal drugs. California Congressman Duncan Hunter and teacher David Dhillon launched “Camarena Clubs” in California high schools. In 1986, club members presented a proclamation to Nancy Reagan, First Lady of the United States, who had initiated nationwide anti-drug programs. The following year, parent-teacher organizations in California, Illinois, and Virginia wore the red ribbons in late October and November. In 1988, the first National Red Ribbon Week was organized by the National Family Partnership (NFP), proclaimed by the U.S. Congress and chaired by Nancy Reagan.

Henry Lozano, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of USA Freedom Corps in 2007-2008, helped to launch Red Ribbon Week in 1985. In 1985, Lozano, along with the Californian’s for Drug-Free Youth Board of Directors, created the first Statewide Red Ribbon Campaign in memory of his high school friend, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent. With the support of Congressman Duncan Hunter and City Councilman David Dhillo, Lozano helped to promote “Camarena Clubs” in Imperial Valley, California, Camarena’s home. From these clubs emerged the Red Ribbon Week campaign, and during the administration of President Bill Clinton it grew into a nationwide service effort.

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