By Audrey Spencer
The Cove Herald
"We're drug-free; couldn't be prouder. If you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!"
Around 750 children, bundled in jackets and hoods against the chilly wind, from Williams/Ledger Elementary School chanted those lines as they walked to S.C. Lee Junior High for a pep rally to wrap up Red Ribbon Week.
"We're bad; we know it. We'll stay drug-free to show it," they repeated.
Fifth-graders and their teachers led the march with the rest of the school following in descending grade order.
"It's a fun activity, but it has a message," said Melissa Dewald, school counselor at Williams/Ledger. "If they hear the drug-free message from junior high students, it has more of a message to them. When they see older kids, they look up to them."
The elementary children assembled outside their school and started the march about 1:15 p.m.
"It's a big deal to them," said Andrea Porter, also a counselor at Williams/Ledger.
When the swarm of singing students reached S.C. Lee, they met the honor band playing in the field. Both children and teachers got into the band's tunes and danced to the music.
The children circled the track, trading high-fives with cheerleaders before crowding onto the bleachers.
Members of the S.C. Lee Glee Club sang lyrics such as "goodness gracious, say no to drugs" for the children in the stands, and even ran into the bleachers to dance with the children.
Physical education teacher Terrie Jernigan then spoke to the crowd briefly about the history of Red Ribbon Week, the importance of staying drug-free and ways to "rule out" drugs.
"By wearing the red ribbons, young people pledge to live a drug-free life and pay tribute to Enrique Camarena," she said.
Camarena was a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent killed by drug traffickers in Mexico in 1985.
Red Ribbon history
The first national Red Ribbon Week took place in 1988. The Copperas Cove Independent School District started taking part 19 or 20 years ago, said Jernigan.
Jernigan told the elementary students about ways to rule out drugs, including simply never starting and sticking up for the things you believe in.
"You will never regret doing the right thing," she said.
Teachers and staff from the school seemed sure that awareness the children gained during Red Ribbon Week activities do make a difference.
"I learned that drugs aren't good for you and can hurt your liver," said Cameron Dewald, a 10-year-old student.
The yearly effort builds on knowledge students acquired in the past.
"Starting with children as young as 3, we start to instill the idea that drugs are bad," said Melissa Dewald, "and we give the message every year."
Contact Audrey Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.