Playing sports, reading books, spending time with friend and family, petting their horse, and washing hands are all examples of what Gause Elementary students identified when asked what they do to stay safe and healthy. The conversation was had at all Washougal schools as a part of National Red Ribbon Week (RRW).

RRW serves as an opportunity to focus on the personal empowerment of making healthy life choices and give students the chance to step up and be proud of those choices. The local RRW is held in conjunction with Unite! Washougal Community Coalition. The national 2021 theme is “Drug Free Looks Like Me.”

“We really want our students to know that there are people who care about them and who want them to make healthy and safe choices,” explained Wendy Butler, one of the District’s RRW organizers and ESD 112 Student Support Specialist focusing on prevention/intervention at both Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard Middle school.

To celebrate RRW this year and share the message of caring, members of UNITE! and WSD staff visited each school and talked with students at lunchtime. “We walked around the tables and asked what they do in their life to stay safe and healthy and what healthy activities they enjoy,” Butler explained.  The answers made staff smile at their diversity and positivity. Students were handed a small gift sponsored by UNITE! of either ear buds, rubber bracelet or hand sanitizer.

“We hope to reinforce that they are already making choices in life to stay healthy and safe,” said Butler. “And that these activities can become lifelong habits.”

An additional local RRW activity was tying red ribbons to trees in downtown Washougal and taking and posting selfie images with them. Nationally RRW was celebrated Oct 23-31, however organizers did not want the activities to distract from scheduled State assessments that were also held in Washougal that week.

“Our goal during RRW is to build community,” Butler explained. “We want the students to understand they are a part of the big picture, and it is important to support each other in making good decisions. It is about coming together as a community in a positive way to increase awareness around making healthy and safe choices.”

Butler is optimistic that students hear the messages of Red Ribbon Week and understand that living drug-free can help them live healthy lives and reach their full potential.