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Dodge Middle School's Red Ribbon Crew tops off a successful first year with big donation

The Red Ribbon Crew -- somewhere around 30 to 40 members strong -- presented representatives from Sobriety High with a check for $1,200 after conducting fundraisers all year.

"Be strong."

Two little words, printed on little red bracelets, made a big impact this year at Dodge Middle School.

The bracelets were just one of the fundraising efforts the school's new Red Ribbon Crew tried this year. The sales, and the Red Ribbon Crew, were both successes.

Designed like a modern-day DARE drug and alcohol awareness program, Red Ribbon Crew encouraged DMS students to make a pledge to stay away from tobacco, drugs and alcohol. The members taught positive messages meant to help their peers decide to live healthy lifestyles.

They started around the beginning of the school year, but had a big awareness event in late October. They went into classrooms, they sought new members. And then they went to work promoting their message for the rest of the school year.

During that week in October, they asked their classmates to sign pledges stating they would stay alcohol and drug free. A huge number of students - somewhere around 540, teacher advisor Deb Weimelt estimates - signed the Red Ribbon pledge. In return, those who signed the pledges received red ribbons to wear around school.

As the school year went on, the Red Ribbon Crew held events. They sponsored a dance. They met on a regular basis. They sold the bracelets. And late last week, they presented a check for $1,200 to Sobriety High.

Sobriety High is a charter school program with sites in Edina, Burnsville and Coon Rapids. It is what its name implies - a high school that helps kids who have had problems with drugs or alcohol to stay sober and make healthy choices.

The Red Ribbon Crew finished its program with skits for the school's talent show, held this week.

Most of the students in Red Ribbon Crew are in eighth grade this year. They'll move on to Farmington High School next year. The high school doesn't have a Red Ribbon Crew program, but it's got the big sister program, Tiger Leadership Club, or TLC. A few of the students say they plan to join TLC next year.

"Healthy choices are a big deal," Becky Genzler said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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