Coalitions in Action – SAFE in Sag Harbor Coalition Offers Message of Hope During Red Ribbon Week

“Like many years prior, seventh and eighth grade students at Pierson Middle/High School, in Suffolk County, New York, gathered this fall during Red Ribbon Week to discuss healthy choices, alternatives to drugs and alcohol, the dangers of vaping and the scars caused by bullying,” said SAFE in Sag Harbor Coalition Coordinator Meerah Shah. “In partnership with SAFE in Sag Harbor, presentations were made by Kym Laube and Jackie Kanarvogel of Human Understanding and Growth Services (HUGS) Inc. about the effects of bullying and high-risk decision making. Although this was an annual occurrence, the significance of the activities for this event would prove to offer solace during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“In planning for Red Ribbon Week, the SAFE in Sag Harbor team engaged members of the Pierson Parent Teacher Student Association to assist with celebrating the occasion with a planting project,” said Shah. “Working with the advisors to the school’s garden club, students planted hundreds of bulbs supplied by the Sag Harbor Garden Center that, come spring of 2020, would bloom in the school yard, forming the iconic red ribbon shape.”

“Our mighty sixth-graders Charlotte Reis, Virginia Kasselakis, and Zeta Carey unearthed massive stones to prepare the beds,” commented SAFE in SAG Harbor Advisors Charles Freij and Bill Raney. “After the assembly during Red Ribbon Week, we presented each student with a bulb, asking them to plant the tulip as a symbol of their commitment to stay drug-free. We were so grateful to SAFE in Sag Harbor for sponsoring the tulip planting. It turned out beautifully.”

“The beauty of this project is that it really highlighted the way sector members of a community could work collaboratively,” added Shah. “It’s a great experience when you’re able to bring multiple community sectors together and create a beautiful, positive message which will have a lasting impact.”

“In October of 2019, no one could foresee what was ahead for the country and the painful impact that would be felt by this little community,” said Shah. “By the spring, community members were hungry for a sign of hope and beauty in the middle of the pandemic. Pierson High School Administrative Assistant Mary Adaczyk sent a message to school staff, including photos of the colorful tulip display, calling it a sign of spring and peace. Ms. Adaczyk sat in her office, void of the children’s voices that once filled the hallways on that spring day, moved by the beauty of the flowers that were planted by students a few months prior when the world looked so different. We plant seeds all the time with youth, this time it was the adults in the school building that needed to see the signs of hope. The red ribbon of tulips offered just that.”