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Students learn dangers of drug use during Red Ribbon Week

Laughter filled the cafeteria at Dana Elementary School in Nipomo Thursday morning. Over the course of two hours, there were lots of smiles on hundreds of students during a pair of special assemblies where the main message being delivered was, in fact, quite serious.

“It’s to not do drugs and do to the right thing so we don’t ruin our lives,” said 4th grade student Alena Cruz.

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The two 45-minute assemblies were held as part of the school’s involvement in Red Ribbon Week, a national campaign created in 1988 to promote drug prevention education and advocacy.

“Drugs can really hurt you,” said 6th grade student Carli Starck. “They can affect your family and your future and you can eventually end up jail or someplace you don’t want to be.”

Helping get the message across was Retro Bill, a popular children’s motivation speaker who travels the country to promote safety, positive values, anti-bullying and the importance of self-esteem.

This week, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department has brought Retro Bill back to the Central Coast to speak to 20 different schools. During his week-long tour, Retro Bill is appearing at elementary, middle and high schools.

“We’re talking about making good choices, healthy choices, working through conflict, staying with a positive circle of friends, believing in your dreams and working towards them each and every single day,” said Retro Bill.

During his high-energy performance, Retro Bill uses a variety of props, as well as his own unique humor to connect with the children. Afterwards, many of the kids said they could relate to the many positive messages delivered during the assembly.

“It gave me the message to never let anyone bring me down, basically never let anyone dull my light and to keep on being the person that I am,” said 5th grade student Alyssa Martinez.

Retro Bill stressed the best way to combat drug use is for kids to have a good foundation at home.

“It takes good parenting,” said Retro Bill. “Parents being involved. Interacting and communicating with their children, turning off the TV, getting off the computer, talking to your child, asking questions, getting answers.”

Dana Elementary has been educating students about the dangers of drug use during the week through a variety of activities. It includes a special theme each day, such as “Crazy Sock Day,” which inspires kids to “kick away drugs.”

Educators say it’s never too soon to teach children about the dangers of drug use.

“This is not too young,” said teacher Elizabeth Ebner. “This is something parents should be doing from the very beginning. It’s never too young. You need to always be instilling these into your children’s lives.”

Retro Bill also spoke with students at Branch Elementary School in Arroyo Grande later in the day. His local Red Ribbon Week tour will actually continue for the next few days. Future stops through Oct. 31 includes schools in Paso Robles, Cuyucos, Avila Beach and Los Osos.

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