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Red Ribbon Week underway

Posted on October 25, 2023

Young Artist Studio inducted into Chamber

By the El Dorado News-Times

Members of local nonprofits The Young Artist Studio (YAS) and eXtreme Youth Programs gathered outside the Union County Courthouse on Monday for the annual kick-off to Red Ribbon Week, which encourages a drug-free lifestyle.

YAS is a youth-focused nonprofit that contains an organized performance troupe featuring local young people and hosts events, including an annual summer camp.

EXtreme Youth Programs is a SHARE Foundation drug prevention program, where high school students learn to “take the lead in drug and violence prevention.”

The Red Ribbon kick-off included a performance from the YAS dance group and a proclamation reading from Union County Judge Mike Loftin.

YAS had even more reason to celebrate as the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce announced the nonprofit’s induction into that organization during the event as well.

The event began with words from YAS founder Stephanie Owens.

“We all know the work we do is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding and we stick to it,” Owens said.

El Dorado Mayor Paul Choate also spoke.

“We’ve got problems in the world today, but I see people like you… and know you’re part of the solution,” Choate said. “We need to move kids away from bad habits and give them the outlets they need to do the good things in life they’re capable of doing.”

Two members of YAS, Keithen Mitchell and Joshua Ford, spoke next. Mitchell read the history of Red Ribbon Week, informing the audience that the drug prevention week annually takes place in October.

“According to the United States DEA, Red Ribbon Week is the nation’s largest and longest running drug awareness and prevention program,” Mitchell said. Ford, up next, led attendees in the Red Ribbon Week pledge.

Part of the YAS performance team, which can regularly be seen performing at events across the county and region, took to the courthouse steps to dance next. Following the dance, Owens spoke briefly about the YAS program.

“I can say 100% of our graduates from our YAS program are productive members of our community. They are enrolled in college, they have full-time employment; we’re really excited about that,” she said.

Loftin read a proclamation declaring Red Ribbon Week as Oct. 23 – 31 in Union County.

“[We] encourage all citizens to participate in drug prevention education activities not only during Red Ribbon Week, but all year long,” Loftin read.

Karen Hicks, VP of membership and events at the Chamber of Commerce, spoke last to welcome YAS into the Chamber.

“I’m so proud [YAS] is here, and that they are continuing to grow,” Hicks said.

A ribbon cutting was held on the courthouse steps with YAS members and attendees, many supporters of the organization, to mark the new induction.