Tying a Red Ribbon around Prevention
Ray at work.

The time of year is here when communities come together to wrap bright red bows around the dark trunks of tall trees in recognition of Red Ribbon Week, one of the oldest and largest drug-prevention celebrations in the nation.

The Elks is dedicated to educating the youth about the dangers of drug use not just this week, but year-round with its Drug Awareness Program. As part of that effort, the program sends speaker Ray Lozano—the CEO of Prevention Plus and a member of Redlands, Calif., Lodge No. 583—on the road throughout the year to talk with audiences of students, teachers and faculty, and Elks from local lodges. From October 16 to 20, Lozano visited schools across Iowa.

Throughout the week, he presented to approximately 6,800 students ranging from kindergarteners to seniors in high school.

“Sometimes it was squirrely middle-schoolers, other times younger kids,” Lozano says. “My challenge is to tailor the message to the audience to make sure it resonates.”

Before a presentation at an elementary school, a nervous principal spoke with Lozano about how she feared his talk would go over the students’ heads. Undaunted, Lozano engaged the students with his trademark humor, while shining a steady spotlight on the effects of drug abuse.

After the presentation, the principal shook Lozano’s hand and thanked him for delivering a presentation that was not only full of energy, but also age-appropriate.

“Mission accomplished,” Lozano says with a smile. “I love my job, and I love knowing I’ve connected with a student.”

During a presentation at a high school with a notorious reputation for being tough on presenters, Lozano was cycling through the five yes or no questions that he likes to ask to help audience members determine whether they might have an addiction, when he noticed a boy get up and walk out of the lecture. Several teachers followed the student and returned him to his seat a few minutes later.

What Lozano didn’t know until after the presentation was that the student was struggling with drugs and alcohol, even attending classes under the influence in the past.

“When I asked those five questions, the kid felt like I was talking directly to him,” Lozano says. “He answered yes to all of them.”

Afterward, the boy thanked Lozano and said the school needed more speakers like him.

“That’s why I do this,” Lozano says of the miles and miles he logs every year traveling to schools across the country. “To help students like him.”

You can help, too. As alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention takes center stage this week, take some time to talk with your family and friends about drugs. You can find more information and resources at elks.org/dap.

Through the Elks National Drug Awareness Program, youth learn the importance of making healthy choices. In 2017-18, the Elks National Foundation allocated $729,340 to completely fund the Drug Awareness Program, which includes custom comic books, videos, and Ray Lozano’s speaking tour for students. For more information, visit elks.org/dap.


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