Local student helps initiate anti-domestic violence program
Steamboat Springs High School junior Amelie Wild first met Graham Hackett, Social Change Program director at Advocates of Routt County, at volunteer training for the organization. Through a series of conversations where Wild shared a desire to promote healthy relationships and stop domestic violence to arguably the most impressionable age group — high schoolers — Wild and Hackett saw an opportunity to collaborate.
Wild and Hackett approached the Steamboat Springs Board of Education on Monday with the “Level Up” initiative, a series of projects and actions intended to empower the entire school community to recognize their collective ability to set and maintain high standards of conduct in the name of reducing interpersonal harm.
This idea originated with the Steamboat Springs School District Culture and Climate Task Force and now, thanks to Wild, will be driven by youth leadership. The goal of this work is to go beyond raising awareness on the impacts of sexual misconduct and relationship abuse. It seeks to provide useful and actionable information for mitigation and prevention.
The school district will team up with Advocates of Routt County and COMMA, an Advocates partner program.
Advocates of Routt County has been serving Northwest Colorado for 40 years with services and support for victims of sexual and domestic violence and works to end such harm in our community.
COMMA is described as “an agile, project-centered service program of Better Tomorrow,” with the organization drawing on 30 years of experiential education, project management and event production experience. The COMMA name comes from the idea that applying a slight adjustment can create a substantial outcome, especially when it comes to relationships.
Hackett emphasized to the Board of Education that when it comes to educating youth on this subject, the group will strive to package information in a manner that will resonate with people and keep them engaged.
“Everyone hates the type of sexual harassment training that is all about blame and procedure,” Hackett said to the Board. “It can be so bad that it can turn people off from paying attention, so we decided to reset that whole approach.”
The first phase of the initiative, called “Low-Hanging Fruit,” describes actions that may be undertaken immediately. This phase mostly involves getting the word out through the community and establishing a professional advocate to be present at the school’s campus regularly.
The second phase of the initiative focuses on community preparation and involves steps such as staff training, empowering the student government (or the Sailor Senate) and advancing restorative justice practices.
Staff training is slated to happen through COMMA, which will run its “Good for Business and Intervene” program modules that look to establish healthy workplace cultures and provide intervention strategies to safely disrupt misconduct.
Routt County Advocates plans to empower student government by bringing the youth perspective on matters that directly affect their lives and that are crucial for shaping school culture. This aspect will grant the students with meaningful decision-making powers and a respected voice in the development of school policies and practices that relate to this topic.
Part three of the program launches the “Level Up” campaign. By this phase, the group hopes to develop narrative and promotional materials.
They look to pose the following question: What would it take to become the safest school district in Colorado, completely free from abusive behaviors?
The group argues that when an entire community makes the decision to “Level Up,” together it can raise awareness, share vital knowledge and shift harmful attitudes that lead to toxic, or even violent conduct.
The goal will be to frequently present COMMA and Advocates’ programs to middle and high school Health classes, and occasionally other classes. All programs draw from best practices of national leaders in sexual violence prevention.
This phase will also include a pledge to “Level Up” and create “Duty to Intervene” guidelines. “Booster sessions” will take place after the launch of this phase to ensure recurring exposure to the critical information the initiative will provide.
The group behind actualizing “Level Up” says the initiative can be conducted within the course of a single semester with booster sessions through the following semester. The group created a timeline that spans from August to March.
It will begin with project initiation and kick-off, and move to student project showcases — which will include creative media projects and team and club campaigns — before closing with booster sessions and evaluation.
Organizers say this project will cost the schools little to no money, and all services through Advocates and COMMA will be free.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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