By Debbie Adams
William Byrd Middle School has been presented an award for the “Best Use of 2023 Theme: Be
Kind to Your Mind” for its efforts during Red Ribbon Week (October 23-31). Thirty-six schools
applied for the awards. WBMS was one of five to be named as a winner.
“This school really utilized the idea of being kind to your mind in the most effective manner
throughout their week. They made a positive impact by focusing on substance misuse
information, and reminding us all what this week is about,” was a comment from RAYSAC.
The award was presented at an assembly on Dec. 6 by Adam Neal, Director of RAYSAC
(Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition) to William Byrd Middle School LIFE
Counselor Allyse Dunlop. The school received a plaque and funds to be used for next year’s
The mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment
towards the creation of a drug-free America. Schools across the country engage in Red Ribbon
Week each year at the end of October, finding creative ways to increase awareness about the
detriment of substances and reinforce the message of staying drug free.
Neal explained to the students that this year’s Red Ribbon Week focused intensively on mental
health and “being kind to your mind.” He encouraged students to become connected to friends,
teachers, parents, teams, and families to form support groups. He emphasized the importance of
having someone to talk with when they are experiencing bad days, as everyone does on occasion.
He noted that many people, notably teens, turn to drugs because they have no one to talk with
about their struggles. He also encouraged students to “become that someone” who will listen in
order to support their peers.
“A true friend makes all the difference in the world,” Neal said. “Drugs often fill a hole when
you are not connected.”
Neal distributed sunglasses to all WBMS students reminding them to make a promise to
themselves to “keep your future bright enough to use sunglasses. Reach out when you need
Students, teachers, community partners, administrators, parents, and staff were all involved in
the Red Ribbon Week planning and implementation. It became a school-wide project.
Administrators dressed up for daily spirit days, as well as helping organize and participate in a
large group drone photo—probably the most unique aspect of the week’s events. They led daily
“Be Kind to Your Mind” activities during all three lunch periods, and organized and led an all-
school pep rally at the end of the week.
Community partners included Jerry Franks, a local photographer who volunteered to take the
large group drone photo and The Vinton Messenger which included information about Red
Ribbon Week and WBMS activities in the print newspaper and on social media.
Parents were encouraged to have daily conversations with students about the Red Ribbon Week
message as they prepared for each Spirit/Dress Up Day.
Cafeteria staff put up decorations for the event; custodial staff helped set up activities. The
counseling staff ran daily spirit day lunch raffles and support staff helped complete daily “Be
Kind to Your Mind” activities.
Students in the Prevention Club created awareness posts and posters that included important
facts about substance use and the Red Ribbon Week theme. The student body participated in
Spirit Days involving the theme, engaged in daily lunch raffles and “Be Kind to Your Mind”
lunch challenges. They helped decorate doors for a contest, read daily announcements that
included education about substance abuse and the week’s theme, and all students took part in the
grand finale school pep rally.
Teachers partnered with students to make creative displays of the Red Ribbon Week theme,
participated in Spirit/Dress Up Days and the pep rally, and incorporated the “Be Kind to Your
Mind” message throughout lessons during the week.
Dress Up Days included:
- Wear Red Day
- Wear Neon and/or sunglasses—because we are too bright for drugs!
- Dress Like a Superhero—because you have the power to be drug free!
- Wear a Hat
- Wear school colors because “Being drug free is the Terrier Way”
During Red Ribbon Week, the school was decorated with red triangle and “live drug free”
banners, awareness posters with substance use facts, and Spirit Day reminders were displayed
throughout the building. Daily online posts were sent through Blackboard and emails. TVs
throughout the building had rotating pictures and videos of the Red Ribbon Week theme.
“We are proud of our overall effort and engagement throughout the week, but most proud of how
many daily activities were offered,” Dunlop said. “Each day students saw the Red Ribbon Week
message through posters, digital posts, and door decorations. They heard information about
substance use through morning announcements. Students engaged in classroom lessons to learn
more about the negative effects of substances. They engaged in Dress Up Days and were able to
enter a lunch raffle each day they dressed up. They were guided through different ‘Be Kind to
Your Mind’ challenges. These activities provided many ways to educate our students on the
importance of living drug free.”