December 18, 2006
Students at Helen Cox High School in Harvey recently commemorated World AIDS Day with a pep rally-style event to raise AIDS awareness. The school's Red Ribbon Club each year presents "Safe Lifestyle Week," a time to promote healthy decision-making. This year the week coincided with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, and the students responded enthusiastically.
The pep rally idea was sophomore Katie Lam's. "Pep rallies always bring a good crowd," she said. At the beginning of the event, Lam addressed the students, saying, "You just don't know what's out there." Then, she and other students listed off AIDS facts while a large screen showed images of people with the disease.
Brian Shearer, peer support coordinator at NO/AIDS Task Force, was the guest speaker. "It can happen to you," he told the students, revealing that people ages 17-24 are contracting HIV at a faster rate than any other group. Shearer, who has been living with an AIDS diagnosis since 2001, used his healthy appearance to prove wrong the myth that "I can tell who has [HIV/AIDS]."
A Planned Parenthood representative followed, telling students of the perils of STDs and urging them to get tested. At the close of the event, students held a small candle-lighting ceremony to acknowledge those who have died from HIV/AIDS. As the students filed out of the gym, a member of the local nonprofit N'R PEACE distributed flyers with information on HIV and STD testing.
The pep rally raised $300 in student donations for the NO/AIDS Task Force, said Vice Principal William Knipmeyer.