Scotch Plains Schools Think Purple

For those who have grown up in Scotch Plains-Fanwood schools, the color purple is synonymous with one week in early spring when the community comes together to celebrate healthy living and raise awareness about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.

Think Purple week, an anti-drug movement unique to SPF, was created over 20 years ago by the SPF PTA. The movement, inspired by the 1986 Hands Across America demonstration, has been an integral part of chemical dependency education in the district ever since.

Student Assistant Coordinator for the district’s drug and alcohol awareness curriculum, Liz Knodel-Gordon, has worked in the district for 24 years, working with the community to foster events like Think Purple.

“The purple ribbon symbolizes that we are all connected in the fight against drugs and alcohol,” she said. “All of the programs we offer during Think Purple week are part of a collective effort to help students achieve a healthy lifestyle.”

This year, hundreds of purple ribbons hang on the doors of local schools, libraries and municipal buildings, and wrap around blossoming trees and bushes in the area. Instead of fastening purple ribbons to school jackets and book bags, students wear purple rubber bracelets emblazoned with the words “think purple.”

“We want these kids to associate the color purple with an anti-drug message from the time they are very little,” Long time PTA Council and Chemical Dependency Committee member, Kathy Shelus said. “Every year, elementary and middle school students write messages on purple hearts to our seniors reminding them to make good decisions and stay away from drugs and alcohol.”

Each senior receives six hearts and 4 postcards with encouraging messages and drawings. Having had to write these hearts in grade school, SPFHS seniors light up when it is their turn to pick up their letter, posted on the walls of the high school shortly before prom and graduation.

Shelus also shed some light on why the PTA chose the color purple so many years ago.

“When the PTA came up with this campaign, there was no money in the budget for ribbons or publicity,” Shelus said. “They went to a retailor who had tons of purple ribbon left over from Lent. He sold it all for a dollar so from then on, purple has been our color.”

In addition to celebrating crazy sock day, crazy hair day, and healthy snack day, students across the district engaged in wealth of other activities aimed at celebrating individuality and learning how to make healthy choices.

David Fisher, widely known as the Rope Warrior was on hand to perform his renowned jump rope routine while educating elementary and middle school students on the importance of staying fit and safe. Don’t miss the videos documenting to his fourth Think Purple visit to School One featured in this article.

Fisher has appeared on Ripley’s Believe it or Not, in the Guinness Book of World Records, and on a variety of morning shows. He began jumping rope while training for the Emory University volleyball team and fell in love with the sport. Now, Fisher travels around the country performing 15 shows a week in schools across America.

On Thursday, Fisher guided several student volunteers through a variety of teamwork driven “jumpnastic” exercises, constantly urging all to “get creative” in their exercise routines. After successfully capturing their attention with an energizing “Cotton-Eyed Joe” solo and a captivating glow in the dark rope performance, Fisher spoke to the audience about making smart choices.

“If you wanna get high skip drugs and jump rope,” Fisher said. “I have the coolest job in the world. I would not be where I am today if I had made bad choices. I am 49 and I have never smoked a cigarette or done drugs in my life.”

After his fourth and final performance of the day, Fisher, a Chicago native, stated that he was glad to be back in Scotch Plains.

“I love the message [of Think Purple] and I love that the community is so involved,” Fisher said. “What I do is a celebration of fitness and creativity. For the younger kids, this is an opportunity to focus on making good choices for safety and nutrition. This is my fourth visit to Scotch Plains. I am proud to be a part of Think Purple.”

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