A combined 30 students and administration from all four Putnam County schools kicked off Red Ribbon Week this morning at Jackson's Family Restaurant, and heard some disturbing news.
Putnam County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Renee Marsteller said she's seen a recent increase in drug use -- particularly prescription drug use -- among students in the county schools.
"We try to raise awareness with adults and parents," Marsteller said. "We encourage anybody to come and be aware of what we're doing.
"I'm hoping that these kids reach out to those kids."
While members of the Putnam County P.I.E. Coalition (Prevention, Intervention and Education) conducted the breakfast meeting, red bracelets and ribbons were handed out to the students and administration to distribute at all four county schools throughout the week. Funding for the program came from the Putnam County Prosecutor's office.
P.I.E. President Thomas Miller urged the students at the breakfast to maintain a drug-free lifestyle and attempt to reach out to other students who do not.
"You all should be our true leaders," Miller said Monday. "I truly believe in my heart that you are our leaders. The only way to expand your thought and your mission is to share."
Miller said Red Ribbon Week kicked off in the mid-1980s after an agent in the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was found dead after infiltrating a drug cartel while undercover.
"Over the years, it's grown and obviously expanded," Miller said.
Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin also urged the students to avoid peer-pressure at all costs.
"Use your bracelent to flip the fence on them," Sutherlin said. "Take that stand. Talk to your friends."
Some students shared experiences in dealing with others who use drugs. One North Putnam student said she knew of another student that freely used drugs on campus and on school buses.
"There's nothing really being done about it," the student said.
Sutherlin asked the student if she had talked to school administration, which she had, but nothing had been done.
"That's a concern," the student said.
The meeting concluded with Marsteller urging the students in attendance to maintain a drug-free lifestyle.
"You need to make sure you pledge to be 100 percent drug free 365 days a year," Marsteller said.
P.I.E. officials said Red Ribbon Week will last until Oct. 31. For more information on P.I.E., call (765) 795-5405.