“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else!”

– Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra, famed baseball player’s statement emphasizes the theme that was presented for Red Ribbon Week, which states. One choice, one goal, one future. Yes, you can make a difference if you know where you are going and keep to the course.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug program, reaching millions of young people to serve as a catalyst to mobilize, communicate and educate youth with participation in drug prevention activities. 

Who makes the program work? Local volunteers who are wiling to bring this education into the schools and communities. One such advocate is local law enforcement officer Marvin Hoyt, who has a strong passion for educating the youth and others.

Hoyt has worked with the Kane County Sheriff’s office for 15 years. The past six years have been with involvement and assignments with the Kane County Drug Task Force.

One of the assignments includes the tracking of individuals who are in the program. He has multiple opportunities to speak with the students and Red Ribbon Week is a great opportunity.

It is a national awareness campaign that helps raise awareness to students, teachers and parents about the harmful effects of drugs. 

The highlight of Red Ribbon Week was an assembly that Marvin brought to the schools. The speakers were amazing according to the students, and were so brave to share their stories.

A group of selected Valley students met in the conference room at VHS to discuss their feelings and viewpoints on Red Ribbon Week.

Carter Kenner, an aspiring young athlete, expressed his views. “We are very sheltered in the valley, and it was so refreshing to see the life experiences of others in a personal way, so we can have the information needed in making good choices. These are not bad people who came to speak about their addictions. They are people who need love and help.” 

“When you first saw the speakers you would not have tagged them as drug users. They looked like ordinary people. Their struggles were real, intense and life-changing. It can happen to anyone. We must decide which direction we are taking,” said Spencer Cox.

Student Body President Abby Bonham, pretty blonde student and great leader, spoke of the experience as an eye opener, “This was a real eye opener, to learn from people of their life experiences and how the drugs had effected their lives and also those around them. You could feel the emotions shared that made an impact of the students.”

“Yes, and we as students need to know the consequences and see from personal perspectives how doing drugs has such a huge impact on others,” said Hanna Lee.

Kaitlyn Baird, the youngest of the group, a bright-eyed student was impressed with the question and answers that were shared. “It was great getting answers from people who had actually experienced life from a drug addict’s perspective. They were willing to talk to us and answer our questions.”

Hazel Harris summed it up by saying, “We have had assemblies before where someone comes and tells us not to do drugs, but people who stand up and tell their own personal stories is so strong, as you are able to share in their really hard and sad life experiences.”

The tenth grade class, under the direction of Mr. Adair, wrote their feelings and anonymously added to the other students. They were in agreement that it was a life-changing experience.

One of the tenth graders had this to say, “the assembly with Marvin changed my opinion on drugs. I have always known that drugs were harmful and are very addictive, but I did not realize how bad, until we had people come in and talk about their stories. When they were doing drugs, they lost family, kids, jobs and much more. They were spending tons of money on drugs. It would be very hard for me to see someone I love go through that and be so addicted that they had full dependence on the drug. I realize just how scary drugs can be. Don’t ever start. Alcohol is the gateway, don’t do it.” 

In Hoyt’s own words, his passion and commitment are evident. “I chose to have my friends that are recovering addicts join with me when I volunteer to do Drug Prevention. I am just another cop, telling kids not to do drugs. So my message is that I can stand here all day and tell you not to do drugs, you may listen,” said Hoyt.

“But when my friends that are recovering addicts can tell you as experts, because of their choices, what effects the drugs have had on their lives, it has so much more impact. Thanks to Callie, Casey, Ashley and Breanna, as they share the effects of their choices. Some started in high school and they know the dark, terrible and lonely road of addiction. Against popular belief, alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are gateway drugs. These people talk about how they got into the addiction. Peer pressure, wrong friends, being cool, or rebellion against parents. Let’s get real.

Drugs are not prejudiced – they will get you male or female, religious, athletic, and the popular kids. Everyone is a target. These friends who accompany me are my heroes. They are the lucky ones that survived. Their messages are warm and real and warn us against bad choices. They are amazing people and I am lucky to have them for friends.”

Hoyt’s goal is clear. He helps these kids to understand where they are going, so they “won’t end up somewhere else.” 

Thanks to Marvin Hoyt, Sheriff Tracy Glover and all who are a part of the drug prevention program. As a community we need to approach these amazing volunteers and tell them that we really love and care about what they are doing for our young people and others as well.