The National Family Partnership organized the first Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign. NFP provides drug awareness by sponsoring the annual National Red Ribbon Campaign™. Since its beginning in 1985, the Red Ribbon has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. In response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, angered parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction cause by drugs in America.

Enrique (Kiki) Camarena was a Drug Enforcement Administration Agent who was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985. When he decided to join the US Drug Enforcement Administration, his mother tried to talk him out of it. “I’m only one person”, he told her, “but I want to make a difference.”

On Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent’s side and shoved him in a car. One month later, Camarena’s body was found. He had been tortured to death.

In honor of Camarena’s memory and his battle against illegal drugs, friends and neighbors began to wear red badges of satin. Parents, sick of the destruction of alcohol and other drugs, had begun forming coalitions. Some of these new coalitions took Camarena as their model and embraced his belief that one person can make a difference. These coalitions also adopted the symbol of Camarena’s memory, the red ribbon.

In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. Since that time, the campaign has reached millions of U.S. children and families. The National Family Partnership (NFP) and its network of individuals and organizations continue to deliver his message of hope to millions of people every year, through the National Red Ribbon Campaign™.

This year, MDC will partner with Northwest Middle School for Red Ribbon Week! This school serves roughly 900 with very diverse backgrounds and experiences. This school population has 18 different language dialects and is the middle school “hub” for English Language Learners in Knox County. Northwest Middle is also a Community School through the Great Schools Partnership where staff members are dedicated to building community partnerships that benefit our students. They work closely with the Community School Coordinator to find and build these partnerships to increase access to services that meet the individual needs of their students. Northwest is also an AVID school (Advancement Via Individual Determination) which is a national organization that promotes and supports the skills necessary for college and career readiness.

Our partnership with Northwest Middle School to prevent youth substance abuse has been proactive and progressive. Every year we collaborate to plan activities that will educate students and their families on the negative impact of youth drug use and how to build stronger refusal skills. This year Northwest students will educate their peers with daily drug-related facts during morning announcement. Throughout the week students will be able to symbolize their drug-free commitment by wearing red clothing. Finally, the students will attend a schoolwide rally with featured guest speakers including former Vol basketball player Clarence Swearengen, the founder of The Real Talk mentorship program and Officer Nelson Hampton of the Knoxville Police Department. Make sure to follow Metro Drug Coalition’s social media to see what will be happening at Northwest throughout the week!