WISE Educates Youth on Cultivating Healthy Relationships
Domestic and sexual violence has been a part of our culture for as long as we can remember. Advocacy organizations, like WISE in the Upper Valley, have been long-standing partners in our community tackling these tough issues. But what hasn’t been around as long are prevention initiatives that work with youth to combat cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based violence.
WISE has collaborated with nine school districts in the Upper Valley over the years to incorporate their pro-social curriculum into existing classes. They began in 1994 delivering their message to high school students, teaching protective skills and strategies around interpersonal relationships. As their success grew with this age group they added curriculum suitable for middle schoolers and later grade school students as young as kindergarten. Their age-appropriate message centers on learning how to behave and communicate with others in such as way as to not perpetuate violence – they seek to change cultural norms that lead to unhealthy relationships.
What does success look like for WISE? “When working with youth, success means leaving students with the feeling that they have the power to overcome gender-based violence” says Kate Rohdenburg, Program Director at WISE, “Many student-led initiatives have come out of in-school trainings, such as: senior research projects, clubs, donation drives, and even the addition of new course offerings at school.”
Teen training classes are more than educational sessions, they are an opportunity to build a relationship with an advocacy organization that will be there for them beyond the classroom - 24/7. Such relationships have led to students connecting with WISE educators before they leave the building to head-off a potentially violent situation in their family or with a peer. “In one case,” Rohdenburg relates, “I had a student lead me to his mother’s office down the hall to talk to her about issues at home. Trust that was built in the classroom gave that student confidence to take action.”
WISE has been delighted with the rise in the interest of young people in addressing domestic and sexual violence and has strong hope for the future.
WISE is a Granite United Way Funded Partner. This year they received funding for three of their initiatives including: Crisis and Advocacy Program, Prevention and Education Program, and Emergency Shelter and Supportive Housing Program.