Staying Fly, Not High Since 1985


Caitlyn Truong

Students of YLHS showed their commitment to a drug free life by signing this poster.

Caitlyn Truong, Photojournalist

Students throughout the nation can be found wearing a red bracelet with the slogan “Drug Use is Life Abuse” during a week dedicated to drug awareness. Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 after the death of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena and has since been recognized in schools of all grade levels throughout the United States.

According to the United States Department of Justice, Enrique Camarena was born in Mexicali, Mexico but graduated high school in Calexico, California. After serving in the Marine Corps for two years, he became a fireman, police officer, and county deputy sheriff. He then joined the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, where he was stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Camarena followed the trails of Mexico’s marijuana and cocaine traffickers for four and a half years, according to the United States Department of Justice. Before he could expose a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline, he was kidnapped by five armed men on February 7, 1985. Unfortunately, he died shortly after at the hands of his kidnappers. He was only 37 years old at the time and had a wife and three children.

After Camarena’s death, his high school friend Henry Lozano and Congressman Duncan Hunter founded the Camarena Club in 1985 in his hometown of Calexico, according to the Red Ribbon Campaign. Hundreds of the club’s members donned red ribbons and vowed to stay drug free in order to honor Camarena’s life and efforts. The Camarena Club was presented to First Lady Nancy Reagan, who later served as an honorary chairperson when the pledges and values of the Camarena Club were adopted by the National Family Partnership in 1988.

Red Ribbon Week is recognized nationwide today. During the last week of October, schools and other organizations display red ribbons to honor Enrique Camarena’s life, whose sacrifice brought attention to the dangers of drugs and the massive drug trafficking trade. The red ribbons symbolize a pledge of abstaining from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco to have a healthy life.

At Yorba Linda High School, red ribbon bracelets were distributed to each student, and the campus was also decorated with red ribbons. Students wore red on Tuesday, October 23 for the campaign. A pledge to stay drug free was also displayed in the quad, and students signed their names as a vow to do so. Sarah Mayans (10) describes Red Ribbon Week as “sort of an annual reminder about how terrible drugs are. Red Ribbon Week is so important, especially for high school students, and I’m proud to wear my bracelet to show that I’m going to stay away from drugs and alcohol.” Enrique Camarena’s sacrifice will continue to be commemorated as Red Ribbon Week for years to come.