By Cari Slater
Special to the Alpine Mountaineer
On the morning of Friday, Oct. 27, the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department addressed Lake Arrowhead Elementary students in a culminating activity to end Red Ribbon Week for the school.
Students at LAE lined up for their typical Friday flag ceremonies but were surprised to see an array of sheriff’s vehicles parked on the playground.
The flag ceremonies ended with a quick address from Sheriff Service Specialist (SSS) Lyndsi Garrett-Solomon who noted the importance of staying healthy and making good choices. In addition, she stressed to the students that their community leaders have their best interests in mind.
“We want you to know how much your parents, your teachers and our sheriff’s department care about you,” said Garrett-Solomon.
The students were then able to ask questions, which Deputy Robert Maestas answered. The majority of the questions were vetted by school administration prior to the event.
A few of the students asked about how one becomes a sheriff and Maestas gave some advice on being an honest person.
“One of the biggest parts about growing up is that you are going to make mistakes but own up to them – that’s how you become a responsible adult,” said Maestas.
After the assembly, classes came out one at a time as students got to sit in the sheriff vehicles and each student was given a Junior Deputy Sheriff badge sticker. All of the children were excited to climb into the off-highway vehicle sheriff’s quad and the backseat of the sheriff’s SUV.
“It was so cool that we got to go in there,” said second-grade student Emily Sarellano-Bacio.
Another student liked the novelty of being in the backseat of a sheriff vehicle.
“I like it because it makes me feel like I stole a thousand bucks,” said second-grade student Cassie Sweatman.
Red Ribbon Week is a nation-wide effort for drug prevention that was founded in 1985 by concerned parents (according to the redribbon.org).
LAE’s approach to Red Ribbon Week is to focus on a healthy lifestyle and encourage students to speak with their parents or another trusted adult if they come across anything that does not feel safe to them, explained Principal Jaclyn Loncteaux.
“I asked them not to use the word ‘drug’ because we have kiddos as young as TK (transitional kindergarten) and we want those to be at-home conversations. I want to make sure that we are not introducing new words to them and that they have that talk with their parents,” said Loncteaux.
As a parent of a young LAE student, Loncteaux wants to be the one who introduces these serious topics to her own child.
During the assembly, Deputy Maestas did briefly touch on the subject of drug prevention.
“If you find candy that is questionable, ask an adult about it first. We don’t want you to put anything in your body that is going to hurt you,” said Maestas.
In addition to sheriff officers, Nate Armstrong was at the event representing the Citizen’s Patrol. He answered students’ questions as he handed out Junior Deputy Sheriff badge stickers. Armstrong explained that the Citizen’s Patrol is a volunteer organization that is mostly comprised of retired individuals. They provide a variety of community services, such as well-checks, scheduled vacation checks on homes, parking direction and patrols for local events, and much more.
Armstrong explained that, in their extensive training, they are prepared to handle various incidents; in the case of drug-related incidents or a possible overdose situation, they call the incident in to dispatch.
“A sworn officer has to administer it (Narcan); but if we call it in, the sheriffs are there now – they are that fast,” said Armstrong.
Before Friday’s assembly with the sheriff representatives, LAE’s Red Ribbon Week included themed days where students could dress up to show school spirit. Themes included wearing red for Red Ribbon Week on Monday, crazy hair and socks day on Tuesday, wear your favorite sports team on Wednesday, wear tie dye on Thursday, and wear your school colors to end the week on Friday.
“Red Ribbon Week is fun. I always love it every year,” said fifth-grade student Liberty Ursich.
The overall tone of the event was organized fun with an emphasis on a healthy lifestyle and a show of support for students from community leaders. At the end of the event, students hollered “thank you” to the sheriff representatives as they walked back to class in single file lines.