By DANIELLE CURTIS
local businesses are working to help local youths stay drug and alcohol free
this week, teaming up with Bridging the Gaps Coalition, a drug prevention
organization in the city, and Spaulding High School in honor of Red Ribbon
While many local businesses are displaying red ribbons on their storefront and drug free messages on their billboards this week, these three businesses — Bella Fresca Pizza, Dr. Mark Ellis, chiropractor, and Rochester Recreation Shotokan Karate Club — are providing discounts to middle and high school students who sign a drug free pledge.
According to Jennie Seyer O'Connell at Bridging the Gaps Coalition, this year's focus of Red Ribbon Week has been to get the community involved.
Seyer O'Connell said that according to a survey middle school and high school students take regarding their use of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors, only about 40 percent of Rochester students said they feel like they matter in the community.
While this percentage is on par with students in the rest of the state, Seyer O'Connell said she wanted to do something about it.
"Getting businesses involved (in Red Ribbon Week) is a great way of showing youth that they do matter, and that Rochester wants to see them make healthy decisions," she said. "It's great to see business support behind it."
The initiative will also aim at reminding students of their drug free pledge, Seyer O'Connell said. When students sign the pledge, they will be given a pledge card, which will have coupons to the participating businesses attached.
The business owners say they are happy to get involved in keeping Lilac City youths safe and healthy.
Ellis, who is giving students who sign the pledge a free chiropractic evaluation, said he decided to get involved in Red Ribbon Week because with his and his wife's work with youths in the community, he has seen the issues that drugs and alcohol can cause first hand.
"You could hear that kids are having problems, but my wife and I, we're living in them," he said.
Ellis said that having not had alcohol in more than 20 years and having never used recreational drugs himself, he hopes to be a positive role model for youths in the community and show them that there is no need to use either substance.
"It doesn't seem like it's something your body requires, so if I can do it, why can't you do it?" Ellis said. "I'm not some superhero, I'm just a mortal man with my own challenges just like everybody else. It's not difficult to understand that alcohol and drugs suck."
Ellis said he hopes that hearing drug free messages from local business owners, as opposed to the police or school officials, will help the message sink in, saying that many youths feel that police and teachers are simply doing their job when urging them to stay away from substance use.
"If that voice comes from chiropractor, or the dentist down the street, then their voices are more credible (to youth)," he said.
Lead instructor at the Shotokan Karate Club, Steve Warren, said he, too, was happy to get involved with Red Ribbon Week and that he hopes to show youths the community is concerned with their health.
"In general, drug awareness is part of what we do for our members and for troubled kids in the area to try to control that behavior," Warren said.
Warren said that as a nonprofit that has been a part of the city for 35 years, members of the Karate Club like to give back to the community and that he is always looking for such an opportunity.
"This is the kind of thing we try to help sponsor," Warren said.
The Karate Club will be giving any student who signs the drug free pledge a few weeks of free karate training.
Bella Fresca will also be giving local students a deal for signing the pledge, offering them 10 percent off any purchase.
Staff at the restaurant said they, like Ellis and Warren, are hoping to inspire local youths to make healthy decisions and stay away from drugs and alcohol.
Students who signed the pledge each received a pledge card with coupons to each of the three participating businesses attached.