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A HC60 Black Hawk helicopter touched down across from Town Park Friday morning to be greeted by a crowd of eager middle school students.
The helicopter visit was part of the Colorado National Guard’s drug prevention and awareness program. The National Guard visits more than 80 schools nationwide each year as part of its program and Pagosa Springs Middle School (PSMS) was fortunate enough to be one of them.
The Colorado National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force, based at Buckley Air Force Base, brought along two pilots, a ground crew and a DEA agent to visit with the middle schoolers. The guard requires law enforcement and emergency responders to be at the designated site prior to landing, which made for an extra exciting morning for the fifth- through eighth-grade students.
According to an email sent to The SUN by Justin Cowan, assistant principal for the middle school, “The chopper landing is a good way to round out” the school’s year-round health, social responsibility and leadership curriculum efforts.
Cowan stated that he found out about the guard’s drug prevention program “through being in the Army National guard and brought it to our school a couple years ago. Now, we are one of the schools that takes advantage of the opportunity every two years.”
The National Guard’s visit comes in conjunction with the Red Ribbon Campaign (RRC), sponsored by the National Family Partnership (NFP). The RRC began in 1985 to honor the late DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was killed the same year in Mexico.
According to redribbon.org, “In response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, angered parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction cause[d] by drugs in America.”
According to the NFP, Camarena believed that one person can make a difference; now the RRC partners with the National Guard to honor Camarena’s life and memory by promoting that same idea and by educating youth through drug prevention activities.
This is the second time the guard has visited PSMS in collaboration with the RRC. Cowan wished to extend the middle school’s gratitude to several community entities for making the event possible.
PSMS wishes to thank Alissa Zissman with the AmeriCorps Check n’Connect Program, who partnered with the school to bring the task force to Pagosa’s students.
Zissman also “works with students on a individual and small-group basis to promote positive health, decision-making and academic support,” noted Cowan.
The school appreciates the recommendation from Cathy Cowels, director of the Regional Substance Abuse Prevention Partners. The Colorado National Guard requires an endorsement from a substance abuse prevention agency before it will visit a school.
Finally, the school wishes to thank the Pagosa Fire Protection District, EMS, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office and Pagosa Springs Police Department for their support during the event.