By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The 23rd annual “Red Ribbon Rally” took over the town green last Tuesday, as Southington students were encouraged to speak out against drug use.
The Southington Drug Task Force hosted the annual event, which ties into the national Red Ribbon program. Dating back to 1988, the program honors the memory of murdered drug enforcement agent Enrique Camarena. During his funeral, Camarena’s family and friends wore red ribbons to pay tribute to the role he played in keeping communities away from dangerous substances.
“Drugs will ruin your life and how you act, how you treat other people,” said Lauren Graef, a student of DePaolo Middle School.
Rev. Victoria Triano, who has served as the master of ceremonies at the event for over 20 years, said the Red Ribbon Rally separates Southington from other communities in Connecticut.
“Here in Southington we care about you, and we want you to know that you can live a life completely drug and alcohol free,” Triano said during the rally. “We are here and we want to help you.”
Student groups and athletic teams took the stage to proclaim their opposition to drugs, preferring to focus on other interests instead like sports and spending time with friends. Principal Frank Pepe of DePaolo Middle School, along with Assistant Principal Chris Palmieri, shared messages that different students wrote together to express their ideas with the crowd.
“Doing drugs will not solve your problems, and friends doing drugs does not make it right,” said Matt Garry.
“Drugs are not just bad, they are illegal,” Jennifer Duncan said.
Palmieri encouraged all Southington students to not only remain committed to being drug-free, but also to approach an adult if they ever struggle to make the right decision.
“Do you have someone you can turn to—an adult in your life you can turn to and ask for advice if you need to do that?” Palmieri said. “If you do not, please think about who you would seek out if you were faced with that challenge.”
Southington school superintendent, Dr. Joseph Erardi, challenged students to be honest with their parents and guardians about drug use, but also challenged parents to have a “courageous conversation” with their children.
“When you ask the questions that you need to ask, you know whether your child is telling the truth or not,” Erardi said. “Ask them what they know, ask them what they see, and ask them for a lifetime commitment of honesty.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Southington Observer.com.