DENVER — This year, President Joe Biden proclaimed October as National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month. The White House said a record 107,000 Americans died of a drug overdose last year — more than a thousand of those were teenagers.
The Drug Enforcement Agency Rocky Mountain Division and members of the Army National Guard will visit roughly 42 schools in the Denver metro area to talk to students about the importance of saying no to drugs. On Thursday, they paid a visit to Westminster Public Schools' Sherrelwood Elementary School.
While the helicopter stole the show for the kids at Sherrelwood Elementary, the real message behind the effort is to teach students about the dangers of drugs. It's all part of Red Ribbon Week, which takes place at the end of the month. It's a campaign that encourages young people in communities and schools across the nation to live drug-free by wearing red ribbons and participating in drug events.
“Throughout the nation, there's been examples of very young children overdosing on fentanyl or fake pills. Especially here in Colorado, there was one in Colorado Springs,” said Steve Kotecki, public information officer of the DEA Rocky Mountain Division.
The DEA says it's so important to teach kids to say stay away from substances they don't know about beginning at a young age.
“We frequently talk to the kids about the dangers of picking up something and eating it, whether it looks like a gummy bear or looks like a SweetTART, but to always take it to their parents and ask first,” said Sherrelwood Elementary principal Cindy Davis.
Denver7 asked some of the 5th graders what they took away from Thursday’s message.
“Some drugs can look like candy and could be very dangerous,” said one student. “Drugs can hurt people and sometimes kill them.”
“Sometimes drugs are not safe. You can overdose and get sick and die,” said another student. “They can make you drive your family away. I like my family, I love them.”
A message the district and these agencies hope these kids keep for life.