‘I am only one person, but I can make a difference.’
The Board of Education un-animously approved naming the District’s newest school after Enrique S. Camarena, a former Marine, police officer and DEA agent whose death at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985 sparked what is now Red Ribbon Week in schools across the nation.
The District’s 46th school will be located at 1650 Exploration Falls Drive in the Otay Ranch Village 11 area of eastern Chula Vista. It is scheduled to open in July 2013. The District sent out emails to 14,000 families and posted a notice on its web and blog sites to encourage suggestions on a name. The Board made its decision at its April 10 meeting after hearing sometimes emotional testimony from Camarena’s son, Enrique E. Camarena, a deputy district attorney who lives in the region.
“What sets his life story apart is that my father has left an ever-growing footprint on American society,” Camarena said. “He was stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was there that in the face of danger and outright threats that he flourished in his job. In spite of the threats from the cartels, my father and the other (DEA) agents decided to stay, continue their service and duty to their country. I won’t get into the details—he was kidnapped and murdered by the cartel he was actually investigating. There was a huge investigation into his disappearance.
“…During the investigation, the U.S. government closed the Mexican border. The only other time since 1985 that has happened was after the 9/11 attacks. …Within weeks of my dad’s death, hundreds of school children here in California honored my father’s sacrifice by pledging to lead drug-free lives. School groups, coalitions, parent-teacher groups started wearing red ribbons. The Red Ribbon Week campaign grew from these grass-roots campaigns. Red Ribbon Week is now the nation’s oldest and largest drug-prevention program. …Every October, every school in this District—and I have spoken at many of them—celebrates Red Ribbon Week. They keep en-larging the footprint my dad leaves on this Earth.
“…When my father was a boy, he knew he wanted to be a police officer. My grandmother tried to talk him out of it,” Camarena said, adding that his father’s response provided a ready-made motto for the school: I am only one person, but I can make a difference.”