http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/10/31/red-ribbon-week-features-healthy-messages-at-schools


Danville Express

Newsfront - October 31, 2008

Red Ribbon Week features healthy messages at schools

Speaker urges middle-schoolers to use their hearts and brains

by Geoff Gillette

Red Ribbon week is an annual event held at schools around the nation, during which students are urged to make the right choices. In many cases the discussion centers on drug awareness, nutrition and physical fitness. Students at Charlotte Wood Middle School were treated to a program that addressed not only their physical well-being, but their mental and social well being too.

Nationally renowned inspirational speaker Michael Pritchard spoke in two assemblies Friday at Charlotte Wood, addressing the entire student body on a wide range of topics. Pritchard started as a stand-up comedian and has gone on to turn his humor and intellect to focus on the pressures and issues facing today's youth.

At the Charlotte Wood Assembly, Pritchard used humorous anecdotes to show the gathered students that turning off their computers and iPods and getting outside and exercising is a great choice. His straightforward means of address kept many of the students riveted. Some whose concentration started to wander found themselves the center of attention when Pritchard shouted at them: "Focus!"

Bullying and teasing were two topics that received a great deal of attention. Pritchard talked about how social pressures cause relationships to change.

"Do you remember when you were all in second and third grade together? And you were all friends and it didn't matter what you looked like?" he said. "But now in order to be popular you dump all those kids who were your best friends. Your best friends? For what?"

Pritchard exhorted the students to do more than thinking at school.

"When you're at school you're supposed to use your brains, right? Well, I want you all to use your heart," he said. "Think about how your actions make other people feel. How are you affecting the people around you?"

In both performances he ended with having students come to the microphone and talk about their feelings and how they have been made to feel. One student got up in front of his peers to apologize to those gathered for being a bully. Another talked of how it hurt when people teased him about his height and his teeth.

One boy summed up the entire experience when expressing his feelings about being called gay. When asked by Pritchard what he hoped people would take away from the assembly, he said, "Hope. I want every here to feel hope and belonging. That feeling of acceptance."

Pritchard built on those words, urging students to reach out to one another.

"If you see someone who's obviously having a rough time, ask them if you can help," he said. "Don't just walk away."

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