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LRAFB team members share stories, advice with local elementary students during Red Ribbon Week

A female in camouflage talks to students in a gym.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Katie Bennett, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron personal property counselor, tells students during a Red Ribbon Week assembly Oct. 23 at Bobby G. Lester Elementary how she persevered through a difficult time due to a relative’s substance abuse. His choices helped her steer clear of drug and alcohol abuse in her own life.

A young black male in Marine Corps tan shirt and blue pants stands in the middle of a group of children as he talks to them.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Collin Gates, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Detachment Little Rock Air Force Base loadmaster liaison NCO in charge, tells students during a Red Ribbon Week assembly at Bobby G. Lester Elementary Oct. 23 that choosing drugs and alcohol can lead them down the wrong path in life. The yearly National Red Ribbon Campaign mobilizes communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.


Attentive but slightly squirmy young children sat in rows on the floor, while their teachers lined the walls of the gymnasium at the brand-new Bobby G. Lester Elementary School Oct. 23, 2018.


There, during a Red Ribbon Week assembly, they watched and listened to five volunteers from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, expound on the virtues of living a drug-free life. This year’s Red Ribbon Week was Oct. 23-31, and its theme was 'Life Is Your Journey. Travel Drug Free.'


U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Collin Gates, loadmaster liaison noncommissioned officer in charge, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Detachment, Little Rock AFB, tackled the theme dead-on as he stood in the middle of the students at the assembly.


“I let them know they can achieve anything they want in life if they stay drug-free, using my story for inspiration,” Gates said. “Also, I had another story about a friend of mine from back home that got caught up in drugs and lost pretty much everything in his life.


It just let them know that these are the realities behind life," Gates said. "This is what can happen, and this is what should happen, it’s all up to you.”


Red Ribbon Week is one of many chances for Little Rock AFB personnel to partner with local community schools, and Sharise Holland, program manager from the base’s Drug Demand Reduction program, took volunteers from five agencies to four elementaries to participate in campaign activities. 


The DDR teamed up with the base Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program, Security Forces Investigation, Office of Special Investigations, and substance abuse counseling for the Marines to provide education and message products to the students to help them understand why it’s important to stay drug-free.


“We’re here to instill that early childhood intervention helps to make sure they know they have life choices, and to go down the positive route,” Holland said.


“Overall, with our students, when we don’t think they are listening, they are listening,” said Dr. Janice Walker, Lester Elementary principal. “Add the lessons the counselor is going to give them as a follow up with what you guys have done here today to really emphasize it, I think it’s something they will remember.”


Fifth-grade student Xavier Jones proved that when Holland asked him after the assembly what he learned. He said, “It’s not smart to do drugs.”


Point taken.