Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

Mother Lode students observed "Red Ribbon Week," a national anti-drug initiative, with assemblies and a range of other activities this week.

Inmates from the Sierra Conservation Center prison in Jamestown spoke with Sonora Elementary School students Wednesday about life choices, and an assembly at the school today will incorporate anti-drug information with a "spirit rally."

Red Ribbon Week, formally called the Red Ribbon Campaign, has been observed during the last week of October since 1988. It is coordinated by the nonprofit National Family Partnership, which started the initiative with President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan.

The idea originated in Southern California as a way to honor Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who was killed in 1985 by drug traffickers in Mexico.

In past years, the school was able to give out ribbons and other trinkets to students for Red Ribbon Week, according to Sonora Elementary counselor Kerri McCluskey.

No ribbons were given out at Sonora Elementary this year, and budget cuts have reduced what many schools are able to do for the initiative.

But Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen's office donated bookmarks to Sonora Elementary students and State Sen. Tom Berryhill donated certificates, McCluskey said.

Other local elementary schools, including Jamestown, Curtis Creek and Mark Twain, held Red Ribbon activities this week.

At Curtis Creek Elementary School, students decorated "mustangs" in honor of Red Ribbon Week and the school mascot. A Red Ribbon assembly was scheduled today.

Jamestown Elementary School students decorated classroom doorways, and inmates from the Sierra Conservation Center's Baseline Camp visited Mark Twain Elementary School in Calaveras County.

The Calaveras River Academy will host "Natural High Day" today, an event that showcases a range of drug-free hobbies that students may engage in.

This year's event will be more "hands-on," according to Kathryn Eustis, director of youth development and prevention programs at the Calaveras County Office of Education.

Students will get the chance to play music, attempt an obstacle course, and more.

Some schools, like Sonora Elementary, blend an anti-bullying message with Red Ribbon Week and the surrounding days.

On Tuesday, students will partake in "Mix It Up at Lunch Day," another national campaign that encourages students to cross social boundaries and connect with peers outside their everyday group of friends.

Contact Brenna Swift at or 588-4529.