Vail Daily column: Programs benefit families | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Programs benefit families

Roni Sheldon
Valley Voices

As many of you know, the Red Ribbon Project, a local nonprofit, has been serving Eagle County for 20 years. I have had the honor of serving on the board of this amazing organization for two years and couldn't be more proud.

The Red Ribbon Project serves Eagle County youth by providing classes throughout the school year in tough topics such as teenage pregnancy, HIV/sexually transmitted infections prevention. What many residents don't realize, however, is that Red Ribbon Project also has classes that focus on important topics that can often be overlooked at home including building healthy relationships, human sexuality and social emotional development. Additionally, Red Ribbon Project offers free anonymous HIV testing several times a year in the county — more than 150 people take advantage of this opportunity each year.

Our programs begin in fifth grade and continue on an age-appropriate basis through 12th grade. I have raised three teenagers in this valley and understand the need for programs such as Red Ribbon Project. Many kids do not have the type of home environment where they can discuss many of these sensitive issues with their parents. Having the opportunity to learn and ask questions in a safe school environment is crucial to making healthy life choices.

I have had the privilege of developing and teaching a class in several of the local high schools on tolerance. I have enjoyed going into the schools and actually interacting with the students and discussing stereotypes, acceptance of others' differences and understanding that we are all unique and our differences should be valued.

It's no surprise — but certainly cause for celebration — that in a five-year period, teen pregnancy in Eagle County dropped by 60 percent. There is no mistaking that this statistic is a direct result of the programs offered by the Red Ribbon Project.

Please join me, my fellow board members and the community in wishing the Red Ribbon Project a very happy 20th birthday. We will be celebrating this happy occasion on Saturday, Sept. 3 at the Dusty Boot in Eagle with a family-friendly party including live music, a silent auction and door prizes.

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Roni Sheldon is a mother and stepmother of young children and young adults. To learn more about Red Ribbon Project's programs and its 20th-year anniversary, visit http://www.RedRibbonProject.org.

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