Prevention

Teen education program seeks to reduce violence

— Prevent.

One word may make the difference for a high school or middle school student encountering violence.

A program sponsored by Advocates-Crisis Support Services, PReVENT educates high school students about bullying and relationship-based violence and then trains them to pass that information on to their peers.

What difference does it make if an adult or a peer talks to a teenager about such subjects?

"Kids listen to other kids better than adults," said Anngie Jenkins, Advocates Youth Services Coordinator. "They take it to heart more."

The program, developed in 1994 by Moffat County teens, is largely student-driven. Every year, program participants make presentations and perform role-play to seventh-grade and freshmen students, teaching them how to prevent any number of violent encounters and providing one-on-one mentoring, if needed.

PReVENT members focus on teaching seventh-grade students what to do if they or their friends experience bullying. At the high school, the program focuses on the signs and prevention of relationship violence, including date rape.

The program also teaches members how to help victims of relationship violence.

PReVENT is as much about awareness as it is about helping students cope with and prevent violence, Jenkins said.

"The bigger picture is getting people - parents and kids - to acknowledge that these issues are occurring in our community," she said.

"It would frighten parents to know how much (date rape) goes on this community," she added.

In 2006, Advocates-Crisis Support Services served 48 victims of primary or secondary sexual assault, Jenkins reported.

"I would encourage parents to talk with their kids ... and be aware of what their child is going through in their relationships," she added. "To the kids, those relationships are serious."

Every other week, participating students meet with Jenkins after school for training. They watch educational videos about date rape and discuss how the violent act impacts the victim. Students also review statistics about the prevalency of relationship violence.

At their training, PReVENT members also learn how to mentor students who have been victims of violence.

"Amazing youth we've had in the past," said Karen Aragon, Volunteer Coordinator and Shelter Manager at Advocates. "I considered it an honor to work with these kids."

For eight years, she led the group before handing it over to Jenkins this year. During that time, she saw program members develop a "passion" for violence prevention and victim advocacy.

Some take Advocates training during or after high school, she said. Others return from college to work as advocates.

Seeing others take an interest in her work "gets me fueled up ... to do this work," Aragon said.

New leadership will help the program set to "the next level," Aragon said.

"These kids have given me hope for the future," Aragon said. "Young people come out of the group able to advocate for others ... who are less fortunate than themselves."

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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