Students learn differently, and so the safety officials at La Cañada High School capped Red Ribbon Week on campus with varying tactics to deliver important lessons on drug-free living.
There was positive reinforcement: candy, vision-impaired tricycle riding and a celebrity — “Gilmore Girls” actress Vanessa Marano was hanging out, posing for photos and delivering a say-no-to-drugs message.
“It’s always nice when people are excited to see you,” said Marano, who was invited to participate by her “Switched at Birth” co-star Marlee Matlin, a La Cañada Flintridge resident whose children attend the school. “And when you can use that excitement to spread a good message, that’s what it’s all about.”
Red Ribbon Week is a drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention awareness campaign that’s been observed in October for the past 31 years. According to the Red Ribbon Campaign, statistics indicate that children of parents who talk to them regularly about drugs are 42% less likely to use drugs than those who don’t. But only 25% of teens report having these conversations.
So it wasn’t all fun and games: Informational leaflets warning students about the dangers of drugs were available, as were display cases of drug paraphernalia that had been collected from campus, according to Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Matejka.
“The kids are really surprised that the stuff comes from the school,” Matejka said. “And that’s the thing that surprises them most, especially with the middle school kids, they’re not as exposed to going out to parties and stuff, so it’s surprising to them. Somebody said, ‘Why do you put it out there?’ Well, it shows that the school is not immune from it: This is here, avoid it, or we’re going to catch you.”
Most sobering of all was the large display case exhibiting a mangled car that, in 2006, was totaled when its driver — drunk and high on cocaine — lost control at 80 mph. He survived; his passenger was ejected and perished.
Seniors Jennifer Marinov and Kathryn Fazzi stood still, silently reading the account of the crash and taking in the sight of the demolished vehicle.
“It makes it real,” Fazzi said.
Marinov added: “It’s really heartbreaking. I was telling her, imagine if that was us. It’s really hard to think about, but it could be anyone, it really could. It’s a mistake that will ruin his life forever.
“This all encourages a lot of reflection, it really causes us to think about our actions more and really be careful with what we’re doing for the future.”