NEW MATAMORAS - In the past, Frontier High/Middle School has brought in a knowledgeable speaker to discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse with students for Red Ribbon Week.
On Friday afternoon, it was student council members who shared the message amid games, videos and activities designed to let students do more than just hear about the potential impact of harmful decisions.
"This is just to make you aware of how hard operating anything under the influence" is, said student council President Kelsey Rinard to a group of her classmates who'd just attempted to navigate a path formed by traffic cones while wearing glasses that simulate intoxication.
Senior Taylor Merckle got the point, veering off course multiple times before finally walking the bike through.
"It's hard," he said. "And I don't know why I'm the only one that can't do it."
Math teacher Russ Morris was laughing right along with the students as Merckle struggled with the bike, but he also wanted to drive home the gravity of the lesson.
Drug and alcohol abuse facts
Information shared by Frontier High School Student Council members during Friday's Red Ribbon Week activities:
In 2005, 215,266 emergency room visits involved the use of marijuana.
Of all fatal road accidents, more than 50 percent involved alcohol.
A large number of property crimes and muggings are committed by addicts looking to support their habit.
Alcohol consumption by a pregnant woman is the leading cause of birth defects.
"You try doing that in a motor vehicle, it can ruin your life, end your life, end somebody else's," he said.
In the school's gymnasium, students donned the glasses and tried to shoot free throws on the basketball court. More often than not the balls went far left of the cylinder, frequently missing the backboard entirely.
"You think you're shooting the right way, and then it goes completely opposite," said eighth-grader James Metheney, who described the experience as "dizzy and confusing."
In several classrooms, students were asked questions about drug facts and rewarded with the chance to play games of skill based on the game show "Minute to Win It." For example, correctly answering a question about where alcohol use ranks among causes of birth defects (No. 1), gave some students the chance to try to balance multiple dice on a popsicle stick held in their mouth and walk a few steps.
The change in Red Ribbon Week approaches was the idea of student council members.
"I think this way is more effective," said senior student council member Chelsea Hayes. "I feel like ? we were more active this year."
Students participating in the activities seemed to agree.
"You get to do something besides just sit and listen to people," said junior Tommy McAtee, after signing a pledge not to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Friday's events wrapped up a week's worth of activities at schools around Washington County. Students from elementary through high school wore clothing that supported daily themes, and members of student groups, representatives of EVE Inc. and public officials participated in activities intended to teach students about the risks and results of misusing drugs and alcohol.
"The focus was putting prevention in the forefront," said Cathy Harper, executive director of the Right Path for Washington County, which sponsored the week's activities in cooperation with schools. "We want to help them achieve their goals and their dreams, and there just really isn't a place in that for drug and alcohol abuse."
Sponsored around the country by the National Family Partnership, Red Ribbon Week began in the 1980s after the murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent Kiki Camarena by traffickers in Mexico City. Red ribbons were worn in his honor by residents of his hometown, Calexico, Calif., and became an anti-drug symbol.