To hold the attention of a group of elementary school children for longer than five minutes takes a pretty interesting story.
Patti Buie delivered just that during a kickoff ceremony for Red Ribbon Week Oct. 28 at Hazel Grove Elementary School as she relayed a tale from her elementary school days about a couple of different classmates that shared the same first name.
Buie referenced how one kid – ‘Steve A’ – and another referred to as ‘Steve B’ both shared similarities, but ultimately one started making bad decisions around the sixth grade while the other continued his pursuit of education.
Those bad decisions, Buie said, included one kid smoking cigarettes, which progressed the next year to drinking beer, which progressed the next to smoking marijuana – which elicited a collective grasp from Buie’s awestruck audience – and culminated in the wayward student skipping tons of school as he entered high school.
The cautionary tale ended with one ‘Steve’ as an example of how making the right decisions led to life as a high school and college graduate and as a successful business professional with a wonderful family.
At the other end of the spectrum, the other ‘Steve’ Buie would wind up seeing face-to-face years later at a feed the homeless event Buie volunteered for. Buie said the drug and alcohol-using ‘Steve’ ended up homeless, without family and “didn’t smile very much” when she saw him.
“He had lost his home, he had lost his job, he had lost his family,” she said. “He had never married, he never had children and he was lonely and sad and by himself. He still had blonde hair but it was dirty and unkempt. He still had blue eyes but they didn’t sparkle anymore. I didn’t know if he still had dimples because he was just so sad and so broken. When I saw him it broke my heart.
“When I tell this story, I like telling it to kids like you because you are the very age that ‘Steve A’ and ‘Steve B’ were when they started making those kind of decisions. I encourage you to choose good friends…and make good decisions.”
Buie was among a handful of Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Board Members in attendance at the event to shed light for elementary school-aged children on the importance of a drug-free lifestyle. Buie was joined on-stage by R-7 Superintendent David McGehee, Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads and Hazel Grove Principal Chris Troester.
Also on hand were members of the Lee’s Summit Police Department who serve as the district’s school resource officers and other community leaders such as Roby Little of Lee’s Summit Cares. The Missouri Mavericks hockey team’s mascot Mac even made an appearance, much to the delight of students at Hazel Grove.
“That was a wonderful story,” Troester said after Buie’s speech. “It had a great message.”
The annual kickoff event was sponsored locally by the R-7 School District and Lee’s Summit Cares. Throughout Red Ribbon Week, schools participate in activities designed to emphasize drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyles.
Red Ribbon Week began following the 1985 murder of Kiki Camarena, a law-enforcement officer killed by drug dealers in Mexico. Red Ribbon Week was established in Camarena’s memory after his friends began wearing red ribbons to show support for the fight against drugs.
The ceremony included a presentation on the history of Red Ribbon Week from students involved with the Bronco Smart program at Lee’s Summit North High School, a performance by the honor choir at Hazel Grove and the reciting by students there of a drug-free pledge.