AZLE — Schools all around the Azle Independent School District celebrated Red Ribbon Week and Healthy Choices Week from Oct. 23 to Oct. 27.
Red Ribbon Week was started by the nonprofit National Family Partnership in response to the murder of Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. Parents and youth wore red ribbons in remembrance of Camarena and as a symbol of their commitment against the destruction caused by drugs in America. Red Ribbon Week has since evolved to educate and advocate for healthy drug-free living through a number of different activities and themed events.
The overall theme for this year’s Red Ribbon Week was “be kind to your mind.” On Monday, Azle students wore all red. Tuesday was crazy sock day. Wednesday was camo day. Thursday was pajama day and Friday was storybook character day.
Eagle Heights Elementary was visited by Tarrant 9-1-1 for a special Red Ribbon Week Safety Smart Rally. Hilltop Elementary held a similar rally the following week on Nov. 2.
Safety Smart was a program started by Abbey Dudek, communication coordinator at Tarrant County 9-1-1 District, six years ago for school districts in their service area. Safety Smart utilizes fun and exciting ways for kids between second and fourth grade to learn about handling emergencies.
“I developed this because I remember when I was a kid it was more fun to learn about things if you could be interactive and it’s a game show setting,” Dudek said. “I took all that and thought let’s make some 9-1-1 education and safety education in a game show style. I paired up with 92.1 Hank FM, sister station to The Ranch, so I could have help with the crew part of it and the equipment part of it and everything.”
During the rally, Cell Phone Sally, the program’s mascot, and her friends hosted a five-round gameshow including trivia, word scramble and other games with teacher and audience participation.
“We encourage the children to cheer on their team, holler out the answers and just have a really good time. It’s great because they’re all learning at the same time, while they’re having fun and winning prizes and things like that.”
Fire safety, how and when to make a 9-1-1 call, and stranger danger are just a few of the topics covered during the rallies. Dudek keeps a close eye on popular media and ongoing issues to incorporate topical and relevant lesson plans within a fun format. The rallies are a free resource for schools and Dudek hopes that by teaching this vital information in a fun and memorable way, students will not only know what to do in emergencies but can teach other children and become public educators themselves. In her six years teaching the program, Dudek has encountered much older children and teens who still remember the lessons taught by Cell Phone Sally in their elementary years.
Azle ISD regularly utilizes Safety Smart and Dudek says the schools have been a joy to work with.
“I love the community,” Dudek said. “Azle ISD has been really great. Liberty Elementary is actually the school that featured on our YouTube channel for the actual promotional video for the safety smart rally. So I just really appreciate their ISD. (Eagle Heights Elementary) was so well behaved. They had fun when they were having fun, but when it was time to be quiet and listen to questions you could hear a pin drop. I was very impressed and there’s 20 school districts in Tarrant County so you can imagine how many schools I go to. I definitely have to give major kudos and props to not only that school but a lot of the elementary schools in Azle ISD.”
Dudek can be reached for requests by email at PublicEd@tc911.org or email@example.com. Along with the Safety Smart rallies, Dudek has also appeared at career days, resource fairs and has spoken with individual classes on safety.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Dudek said of the rallies. “I love my job; I love the community. You never know which one student may actually save a life because of the information at the Safety Smart rally.”