Student-Led Substance Abuse Prevention in High Schools.
Substance abuse has been an ongoing challenge to American (and global) society for decades, yet recent years have seen significant increases in addiction and overdose death from the frighteningly potent illegal drugs available to even casual drug users. While society continues to lean on law enforcement and treatment efforts to fight back in those directions, public education against substance abuse also needs to be a top national priority. This is particularly true in our schools, as all studies show that serious substance abuse often begins in high school or earlier. Unfortunately, however, most schools do not have organized drug abuse prevention education programs. Students deserve to learn basic information about the hazards of substance abuse to them personally, to their families, to their schools, to their communities and to the world community. The establishment of the CamarenaStrong Club program is intended to help remedy that lack of education by harnessing the power of the students themselves to engage, educate and encourage their peers to live healthy and positive lifestyles.
One of the most tragic events in the history of U.S. drug law enforcement was the 1985 murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. This event was one of the most cowardly and reprehensible acts ever perpetrated in DEA’s history, an event which involved the kidnapping of DEA Agent Camarena in broad daylight by
drug traffickers with the complicity of the Mexican Police, the ensuing drawn out torture and interrogation, followed by a well-orchestrated cover up by Mexican law enforcement and government officials. The impact that this event had on public awareness of drug trafficking, nationally and internationally, is without parallel. It drew media attention from the day that “Kiki” went missing to months and even years after. It drew the outrage of the American public which, for the first time ever, saw the true dark images of what drug trafficking was all about and to what depths the drug traffickers would sink to maintain control in order to reap astronomical profit.
These tragic events served to reinforce the nation’s efforts against drug trafficking and abuse. It gave rise to numerous anti-drug organizations and revitalized others but most importantly it awakened the American public. Kiki’s loss became a historical marker for ensuing change that brought about public awareness in the schools, civic organizations and businesses. Red Ribbon Week was established by the U.S. Congress as an annual reminder of Agent Camarena’s ultimate sacrifice in the struggle against substance abuse and to bring ongoing awareness to substance abuse prevention education. The Camarena family established the Enrique S. Camarena Educational Foundation (ESCEF) to promote prevention education across the U.S.
CamarenaStrong is a name intended to evoke the sacrifice of DEA Special Agent Camarena and the cause for which he gave his life. CamarenaStrong Club members will be carrying on with the mission to educate students and broader society about the hazards and costs of substance abuse.
CamarenaStrong Club Requirements
An established CamarenaStrong Club will require sponsorship by a school staff member. The students will have three minimum requirements that club members must organize for their campus during a school year:
A) To conduct a substance abuse prevention education campaign for the campus during Red Ribbon Month, such as a prevention poster contest, or a PSA contest, or any other creative method the club members and school select.
B) To engage with school administrators to organize a substance abuse prevention assembly.
C) To prepare and deliver peer-to-peer substance abuse prevention messaging at the end of the school year to 8th graders in the middle schools that feed into the high school hosting the CamarenaStrong Club.
Additional CamarenaStrong Club Activities
Community Engagement: Members of the CamarenaStrong Clubs will be encouraged to engage with professionals in their communities who contribute to fighting, preventing and treating substance abuse. Substance abuse counselors, psychologists, social workers, police officers, medical examiners, juvenile court judges, probation officers, emergency department doctors and nurses, and drug treatment center operators are just a few examples of the types of professional adults who can support and provide information and presentations to CamarenaStrong Club members and their student peers. ESCEF will provide information and tools to facilitate student understanding of these professional roles and to engage with them.
Partnership with CADCA coalitions: Most communities have active community coalitions funded by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. Partnership with these coalitions will provide the CamarenaStrong Clubs even greater access to information, resources and local support.
Social Media Production: Club members will be encouraged to develop educational content for distribution on social media through the ESCEF and CamarenaStrong Club.