ROCHESTER — Just before school let out Tuesday afternoon, more than 400 Spaulding High School students stood side-by-side on the football field to create a giant human formation of a red ribbon in honor of Red Ribbon Week.
Red Ribbon Week was created in 1986 to honor DEA agent Kiki Camerena, who was kidnapped and killed in Mexico while working on a multibillion dollar drug operation.
Red Ribbon Week asks youths to pledge to be drug free.
For the second year in a row, Spaulding students have celebrated the weeklong event by creating the human formation — an event organizer Nicole Dale, a prevention services coordinator at the high school, said the students really enjoy.
"The kids really seem into it," Dale said, as students wearing red shirts walked past her to find their positions on the football field.
Dale said that other schools around the state create similar formations as part of Red Ribbon Week. The state coordinates these events and can also have a plane fly overhead to take aerial photographs of the formation, she said.
According to Asst. Principal Ryan Kaplan, however, the timing of the state's flyover did not work for the school, so a group of ROTC students and an instructor volunteered to fly a small plane over the field to take pictures.
The event is open to any student at the high school who signed a drug-free pledge as part of Red Ribbon Week — a pledge Dale said more than 500 students signed this year.
According to another organizer of the event, Jennie Seyer O'Connell at Bridging the Gaps Coalition, a local organization for drug and alcohol prevention, the human formation is a great way to remind the students of their pledge and show them just how many other students have the same goals that they do.
"It's a good way to promote a drug-free message and for students to see that not everyone in school is doing drugs, which is a big misconception," Seyer O'Connell said.
Dale agreed, and said it is an important way to bring students together to create a drug-free school environment.
"We want to create positive peer pressure among the kids that are not doing drugs and create a safe environment," she said.
Many of the students involved, she said, have done more than just sign the drug free pledge and are also working toward encouraging students to stay drug-free. Two such groups of students, Students Taking Action in Rochester (STAR) and ROTC, helped to organize Tuesday's event.
STAR member Kasey Lee and ROTC member Brody Shaw, both freshmen, said they were excited to see so many other students participating in the event.
"Coming to the event is showing that you actually care about staying drug-free," Lee said.
Shaw said that while many students use the event as a way to get out of class, many others are committed to their drug-free pledge.
Others, Lee said, are students who may be currently using drugs or who have used drugs before, and have taken the Red Ribbon Week pledge to help stop their use.
Despite the large number of students participating in the formation, it took only 10 minutes to get them lined up on the football field thanks to the direction of band director Joanne Houston and her students, who are used to creating formations on the football field.
The band students went out onto the field before the other students involved to create the ribbon shape and then other students lined up next to them, Houston said.
For more information on Red Ribbon Week and other events in the city, contact Seyer O'Connell at (603) 330-7160.