by BaLeigh Harper
When I say I work for a domestic and sexual violence service agency, I often have to quickly respond to sad faces or awkward silence by explaining, “No, no! I have the fun job!” It’s true—at DSVS we often hear sad stories. So we created our education program, Power Up, Speak Out! to prevent abuse and work toward a future free from violence. My awesome coworker, Travis Burdick, and I have the “fun job” of traveling around the state talking to teachers and youth about healthy relationships.
We teach that in a healthy relationship, I get to be myself, I treat others well, I can say no, and I have fun. We believe that this simple message has the potential to transform our relationships and our communities.
We have found teachers statewide who share our vision and teach our program in their classrooms. Teresa Majerus, a teacher in Lewistown attested, “I love it [Power Up, Speak Out!]. It’s so applicable. It gives kids a language to use. And it helps teach them about their emotions and helps them be able to communicate not only with each other but with adults.”
Kate Warner-Combs, a teacher at Fromberg said, “The kids really like it. They enjoy the activities.”
As violence prevention educators, people often assume that we bum youth out talking about bullying and other depressing topics. The truth is, kids enjoy receiving our lessons, and we enjoy teaching them. Instead of focusing on negative relationship behaviors, we provide students critical thinking skills to analyze their peer relationships. We focus on what healthy relationships look like.
We are in the midst of formally evaluating Power Up, Speak Out! in classrooms statewide. We’ve had a blast reading survey data from students. When asked what would make our lessons better, a 7th grader from Missoula replied, “I like it how it is. I think it’s kind of fun.”
When asked what it means to be in a healthy relationship, an eighth grader from Billings responded, “It’s like when you have one chicken nugget left and your friend lets you have it.” (Sharing is caring, right?)
Power Up, Speak Out! is a young program. It was written in Red Lodge in 2010 and piloted in 2012. Watching our program grow throughout 2014, I can’t help but feel a profound feeling of hope. Our youth have the power to prevent the violence we see in our office every day.
So, in sum, preventing violence is way more awesome than it sounds.If you want to learn more about Power Up, Speak Out! check out our website at www.powerupspeakout.org. To sign up for the DSVS and Power Up, Speak Out! monthly e-newsletter, email BaLeigh at email@example.com.