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Program helps Andress Students Identify, Prevent Dating Violence

EPISD is working hand-in-hand with the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV) to bring an educational program for students at Andress High School.

The empOURment program is focused on teaching students primary prevention, which addresses inequality as the root case for sexual violence.

“The goal is to teach students how to build skills around healthy communication and empathy,” said CASFV Primary Prevention Coordinator Kacie Fountain. “It’s important for us to start having conversations that help students understand each other better, respect each other and build empathy sooner. If we do that, we’re able to create a sense of equality for both boys and girls that will ultimately reduce sexual violence in our communities.”

CASFV and EPISD worked together to choose a community that had the elements to help the unique program thrive.

“While primary prevention would have been equally successful in any school, Andress was uniquely suited due to their capacity to sustain long term programming and the enthusiastic welcome that the Northeast has given to CASFV,” Fountain said.

The program is divided into three different parts, starting with a nine-week session at the school for phase I. CASFV facilitators visited with students twice a week for one hour during health class to talk about different topics, such as building community, relationships and communication.

CASFV staff noticed a marked change in the students after the first phase of the program neared completion.

“The students have shared that they feel more confident that there are adults in their lives who truly care about the difficulties and challenges they face as young people,” Fountain said. “Through difficult discussions they were able to understand that while their life experiences may be different, some of the challenges they face have similar impacts on their lives. This helps us all build a stronger understanding of what equality means, thus reducing sexual violence in our communities.”

Phase II will kick off next semester with a student-led club, which will choose a project geared at creating community awareness to prevent sexual violence.

“The goal is to work with community members, parents and the school to reinforce what they are learning in the classroom,” Fountain said.

The third part of the program will be to continue community level work, with students reaching out to local stakeholders and fostering community ownership of prevention programming.

The program began in October and is wrapping up in November with a recap of everything they learned over the course of the nine weeks.

More than 100 Andress students participated in the program.

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