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News / Health / Clark County Health

Fort Vancouver High School students host Red Ribbon Week event

Youth plant bulbs, demonstrate importance of staying drug-free

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: October 23, 2023, 5:40pm
4 Photos
Fort Vancouver High School students are planting tulips to raise awareness of substance use in the community, as part of Red Ribbon Week.
Fort Vancouver High School students are planting tulips to raise awareness of substance use in the community, as part of Red Ribbon Week. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

As Addie Cates plopped a tulip bulb into a small hole etched in a flower bed she made a promise to her community.

Surrounding Cates, other students from Fort Vancouver High School knelt over garden beds, fingers buried in dirt as they planted tulips for Red Ribbon Week. The nationally celebrated week demonstrates the importance of staying drug-free and making healthy decisions. The group of about 20 students — who are part of the school’s Great Prevention Club — met early Monday morning to plant tulip bulbs in the school’s front lawn.

Once they bloom, the tulips will plant a seed in passersby of the dangers of substances.

“We’re out here planting tulips as a promise to our community that Fort Vancouver High School cares for its students, families and community by creating a space for our youth to be empowered and successful,” said Alizz Quarles, the school’s prevention and intervention specialist. “We stand against the dangers substance use presents, and we are a community unified in the advocacy for prevention efforts in our school.”

The club’s work isn’t limited to just one week. The students often hold resource activities during lunch hours and other harm reduction activities throughout the year.

Be Heard

The Central Vancouver Coalition is seeking adults to take its 2023 community survey.

The survey asks participants their opinions about youth substance use in the community. Responses will help inform and improve prevention programs.

Visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CLFOVAEN2023

The Central Vancouver Coalition also seeks volunteers. Visit: https://www.centralvancoalition.org/get-involved/

In a couple of weeks, the students will host a follow-up Red Ribbon event where they will have other students write on paper ribbons stating why they choose to be drug-free.

“It’s the full continuum of awareness and education,” Quarles said. “All year long, we promote education and awareness around substance use related issues throughout the school and community. There are so many different ways to get involved with prevention efforts and access support services here at FVHS.”

The peer-led club also wants to spread the message that despite growing concern for youth doing drugs, most students are committed to staying drug-free. And for those in the community who are on their own journeys of recovery: The club is there to support them.

“We are here to show that some of us aren’t (doing) drugs and are here to support others and help them get out of using drugs,” said freshman Sofia Landa. “I feel like it’s also important for parents to see how there are kids who aren’t doing drugs and are helping others.”

As Landa picks up a bulb, sophomore Ruby Geddes slices through dirt with a shovel with a small “tink.” The students hope more will join their club and next year be part of the Red Ribbon Week celebration.

“We are planting flowers for the community to see that we care for our school, and we care for our students,” said Geddes.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.