2023 Enrique Camarena Award Recipient Announced

Thursday February 23, 2023


Enrique "Kiki" Camarena and Katie Nunez Vasquez

(National Family Partnership) Enrique (Kiki) S. Camarena was born on July 26, 1947, in Mexicali, Mexico. He graduated from Calexico High School in Calexico, California in 1966, and in 1968 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. After serving in the Marine Corps for two years, Kiki was a Calexico fireman, Calexico police officer, and an Imperial County Deputy Sheriff. Kiki joined the Drug Enforcement Administration in June of 1974. His first assignment as a Special Agent with DEA was in a familiar place - Calexico, California.

In 1977, after three years in Calexico, 37-year-old Kiki was reassigned to the Fresno District Office in Northern California. Four years later, Kiki received transfer orders to Mexico, where he would work out of the Guadalajara Resident Office. For more than four years in Mexico, Kiki remained on the trail of the country's biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers. In early 1985, he was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion-dollar drug pipeline. However, before he was able to expose the drug trafficking operations to the public, he was kidnapped on February 7, 1985. On that fateful day, while headed to a luncheon with his wife, Mika, Kiki was surrounded by five armed men who threw him into a car and sped away. That was the last time anyone, but his kidnappers would see him alive.

In honor of Camarena’s memory and his battle against illegal drugs, friends and neighbors began to wear red badges of satin. Parents, sick of the destruction of alcohol and other drugs, had begun forming coalitions. Some of these new coalitions embraced Camarena’s belief that one person can make a difference. These coalitions also adopted the symbol of Camarena’s memory, the red ribbon. During his 11 years with DEA, Kiki received two Sustained Superior Performance Awards, a Special Achievement Award and, posthumously, the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award granted by DEA.

In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. Since that time, the campaign has reached millions of U.S. children and families. The National Family Partnership (NFP) and its network of individuals and organizations continue to deliver his message of hope to millions of people every year, through the National Red Ribbon Campaign™. Today, NFP hosts the annual Enrique Camarena Award, an award given to an individual who believes and understands the power of the individual voice to reach and influence the larger community for drug prevention.

Katie Nuñez Vasquez is the 2023 Enrique Camarena Award Recipient. Katie is a student activist and community leader in Santa Barbara, California. Katie has led incredible work in the field and drug prevention system. As a young leader, Katie focuses on using her voice in policy change and educating her peers. Katie played a pivotal role in passing the Off-State Alcohol Ordinance, a policy that reduces underage alcohol access for minors, minimizes alcohol advertising to youth, holds liquor stores accountable, and eliminates alcohol mini bottles. Katie made sure to use her voice to speak with the Santa Barbara Officials about the importance of mitigating the normalization of alcohol in Santa Barbra and shared proposals to further prevent underage drinking in the County. Katie takes tangible actions to improve the well-being of her peers and community. Furthermore, Katie has led two (2) national drug-prevention campaigns for three (3) years: National Prevention Week and Red Ribbon Week. For Red
Ribbon Week, she facilitated Plant the Promise and over 30+ youth sign pledges. Both activities encouraged her peers to commit to raising awareness, have a drug-free lifestyle, and help others learn about the importance of staying healthy and drug-free.

NFP had the pleasure of interviewing Katie to learn more about her outstanding commitment to her community.

NFP: What made you get into community work and drug-free prevention?

K: The need for advocacy work in my community is what drew me into advocating. Coming from a Hispanic background, alcohol isn’t foreign to us. I remember one of the first projects I worked on dealt with drug free prevention. I along with peers obtained data necessary to explain the rise in substance usage in Santa Barbara. The survey contained questions about whether one believed Santa Barbara was turning into a drunk zone. Taking a walk-through state street is a clear indicator that it is. Future Leaders of America, a non-profit organization I’m a part of, is working towards pushing an end to off-site alcohol sales after midnight. The positive effects of projects such as these is what motivates me to continue to advocate.

NFP: Do you enjoy working in the community? Do you involve your peers?

K: I have come to find myself dedicating my time to advocate for my community. In the beginning I saw it as an opportunity to improve my college application but as time passed, I have come to grow a passion for it. FLA has truly helped me discover this part of me that I never thought I had. FLA has pushed me out of my comfort zone, encouraged me, and has made me see the impact I can do as a teen in my community. Advocacy work is not a solo project. It requires a team who is just as passionate and willing to do all the small and big things. Becoming a part of the student council it’s my role to push my peers out of their comfort zone to advocate as well.

Congratulations to Ms. Katie Nuñez Vasquez for being the recipient of the 2023 Enrique Camarena Award. It is leaders like yourself that encourage young individuals to live healthy and Drug-Free. Let’s continue to make America Drug-Free!

If you know someone who is an outstanding contributor to the field of drug prevention in your community, you may nominate them by completing the Enrique Camarena award form located inside the School Planning Guide. You can download it at www.redribbon.org/downloads/.

Red Ribbon Week takes place each year from October 23rd through 31st. We invite you to join us by getting involved. Learn more about the contest and the campaign by visiting www.RedRibbon.org.

About the National Family Partnership

The National Family Partnership was established in 1980 and is a national leader in drug prevention, education, and advocacy. Its mission is to educate families, and to help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free, through the promotion of two national campaigns: Red Ribbon Week® and the Lock Your Meds® campaign for prescription drug abuse awareness. Learn more about Red Ribbon Week at www.RedRibbon.org, Lock Your Meds at www.LockYourMeds.org and NFP at www.nfp.org.