By E.B., Guest Blogger
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to shadow and learn from Jessica [Teperow, Director of Prevention Programs] and Dani [Patrick, Youth Education Specialist] at REACH. I became interested in learning more about REACH as well as domestic violence and sexual assault after listening to Jessica speak at my school to all of the seniors about the topic, and about helping us to stay safe at college. As a victim of sexual assault myself, I was rather surprised at how comfortable I felt talking to Jessica about my experience as well as learning more about this difficult topic. She had a very constructive message, and had a refreshing outlook on how to stay safe in college and in high school. She gave great advice and was a great listener, and many girls at my school felt comfortable speaking to her and being honest with her. Following this, I decided that I wanted to try and intern at REACH during my two weeks of my senior project at my school. Following several conversations with Jessica, we were able to secure this opportunity. I attended over 10 hours of the REACH training sessions this spring. This gave me some good insight into the many different ways abuse can occur. While these sessions were often difficult to hear, I left them with a much greater understanding of the topic, and I feel as though I will be much more aware of the many different forms in which domestic violence can take place. Also, I was scheduled to shadow Jessica and Dani in the classroom at various high schools to talk about domestic violence and prevention techniques. In addition, I was scheduled to spend time in the REACH offices to learn more about the organization and what it is that they do there on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunately, I got a concussion several days before my project was to start. This made it very difficult for me to spend the same amount of time with Jessica and Dani as I was planning on. However, even with this shortened amount of time, I learned many things from both of them. While teaching restless high school students about healthy relationships can oftentimes be a challenge, both women had the ability to keep the classes engaged and active. Various activities helped to get kids moving around the room and speaking, while educating them at the same time. As the classes progressed, it was interesting to watch kids warm up to Jessica and Dani. Girls and boys began to participatemore, and share personal stories. It is not uncommon for teenagers to feel uncomfortable about this subject, but the kids in their classrooms did not hesitate to speak up.
I personally believe that these topics are extremely important for people of all ages to understand and be educated on. That is why I am so impressed by an organization like REACH for doing such extensive preventive education in schools throughout Massachusetts. All of their efforts will help to educate men and women, and boys and girls of all ages about this serious topic. While it is often discouraging to hear about all of the sexual assault and domestic violence incidents in the news, it is because of organizations such as REACH that a change for the better is possible. I am very lucky to have met Jessica at my school, and to have been able to work with Jessica and Dani this spring.