Junior commits to spreading anti-drug use message, wins Red Ribbon contest

February 12, 2023 — by Anamika Anand
Photo by LGSUHSD
Winning the photo contest is one of the many ways that junior Ryan Lin has worked to spread drug awareness. 
Junior Ryan Lin first listened to the stories of former drug abusers in elementary school, sparking his mission to spread awareness to others. 

Junior Ryan Lin first visited Operation Dawn, a drug rehab center in San Francisco, when he was in fourth grade. It was there that he first interacted with individuals who were fighting the battle of drug abuse, igniting in him a cause to spread their stories in any way he could. 

Lin has immersed himself in this cause by participating in multiple organizations and even starting his own that is based around interacting with the residents of Operation Dawn. He focuses on spreading information about the consequences of drug addiction and talking to people who have had their own experiences with it to reduce stigma and educate his peers. 

Recently, Lin — alongside juniors Sam Bai and Samuel Kau — participated in the National Red Ribbon Week photo contest of 2022 and won the Region 4 sector prize of $1,000, which has been donated to the school in support of drug-free prevention education. Lin said he is grateful for the recognition and sees it as a great way to spread drug awareness. 

The photo portrays Bai, Lin and Kau holding up the red ribbon poster that says “Celebrate Life, Live Drug Free,” lit up by candles in the foreground that form the red ribbon logo. Red ribbons are also tied behind where the three stand. 

We used the candles because it was supposed to represent a candlelight vigil to remember those who lost their battle with addiction,” Lin said, 

The Red Ribbon photo is just one of many ways Lin has become involved in the drug awareness movement. In January 2022, he founded Outreach Initiatives iCare, a student group that frequently visits Operation Dawn. The students talk to the residents to learn about their stories, conduct service projects and fundraise for the organization. 

At Operation Dawn, students have installed solar string lights around the roof of the patio, planted roses, cleaned the goat barns and spent time with the residents. According to Lin, the residents need to exercise regularly, so students organize tournaments and play sports with them. 

Lin highlighted an annual Movie Under the Stars event, where the students watch a movie of the residents’ choice with the residents. There have also been two fundraising events for their solar electrical system, for which Lin’s initiative has donated around $4,400 to Operation Dawn to support. 

Apart from fundraising, the students simply listen to the residents’ stories, such as people who lost a bet, took drugs and became addicted or teens who ignored their parents, hung out with the wrong people and fell into a cycle of addiction. 

Lin has observed a stigma around getting help for substance abuse, and he thinks that giving people a chance to talk about their stories and their journeys is the best way to reduce that stigma. He explained that getting involved with local communities helps their recovery. 

“I listened to some of their stories and I realized we’re all one step away from going down the same path,” Lin said. “Many of them really want to stop using drugs, but their bodies and their brains don’t cooperate. By being supportive, they will be less hesitant to see a doctor to get better.” 

Lin is also a member of the Peer Advocate Advisory Council of the Santa Clara County Office of Education, which holds monthly meetings and designs student-focused projects in the county. 

Lin has participated in the council for seven years, and through PAAC he started the Friday Foosfun! event on campus, which occurs monthly on Blue Day Fridays in the Student Center. Members hand out informational tri-folds, put up posters and educate about Naloxone and Fentanyl dip cards. 

In addition to the PAAC events, Lin has aimed to educate students at the school about his cause by designing seven bookmarks that can be found in the library. His overall goal is to take even the smallest steps to educate students in school and in the community. 

“I heard many people say, ‘students will experience drugs one day,’ but I think we should dismantle this myth by revealing the dangers of drug abuse so that we have enough information when facing temptation, not only in high school but also in college or beyond,” he said. 

Lin’s future goals include partnering with ASB and the Wellness Center for a tabling event during Drug Awareness Week, likely sometime in mid-March. 

His organization Outreach Initiatives iCare will also be part of the community screening of an award-winning documentary called “The War of Sobriety and Dazedness” — which tells powerful recovery stories of Operation Dawn residents on a much larger scale — at Oakland’s Fox Theater on Feb. 19 with free admission. Lin said he encourages everyone to attend and educate themselves about the journeys of these individuals. 

Many people have had their lives cut short too soon due to substance abuse, and I really hope this trend can be reversed by collective community efforts and outreach,” Lin said.

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