Helpful Hints to Build a Youth Program
Peers Building Justice in Boulder believes that through partnership between adult educators and youth leaders, we can increase awareness about and reduce rates of teen dating violence in our communities.
Over the past 2 years, PBJ has made significant changes to the youth leadership component of our program. After a lot of hard work from staff at the local domestic violence shelter and outreach center (SPAN) and the local rape crisis center (MESA), PBJ has a strong teen program.
We would like to share our process and what we’ve learned so far in the hope that we can help other communities do primary prevention work for dating and sexual violence.
For years, Peers Building Justice used a peer education model. However, evidence came out that while peer education is fantastic for the youth educators; it doesn’t do as much to positively influence their student peers. So, the PBJ collaboration decided to follow the current best practices by offering a significantly longer, adult-taught curriculum. With this shift, we realized that we needed a new way to maintain the positive youth development approach for which we were known. We developed the Peers Building Justice Training Institute.
At first, the Training Institute was very small, and done in partnership with the one local school that offers credit for community service. Over the past two years, developing this program has been a major priority for our two program coordinators.
The youth members recently rearticulated their mission to state, “We are a youth group that uses arts-based projects to promote social justice and resist violence in our communities.”
Last year the group focused on promoting self-love as a necessary foundation for healthy relationships. This month, we wrapped up learning the basics of intersectionality of oppression, dating violence, and sexual violence. Now our members are learning skills like photography, videography, zine-making, and community organizing to use in this year’s campaign.
We invite youth from any high school in the area to join the PBJ Training Institute. Once students express interest, we give them a short application and follow up with an informal interview. Our interviews are as much about developing a respectful relationship with each member as they are about screening for a good fit. This year, we were thrilled to have 20 youth from 5 schools complete the application and interview process! Since membership has historically been one of the biggest challenges for our program, here are a few of the recruitment tips we would give to our past selves:
- Host an open house. This allows youth to get a no-commitments taste of what it feels like to be a part of the group. It’s also helpful for parents.
- Develop relationships with other local youth programs. These people can be your allies for co-hosting events, sharing information and resources. You can also minimize competition by making sure important events don’t conflict with another group.
- Provide concrete examples of what it looks like to be a participant in your program. It turns out youth like to know what they’re signing up for. In recruitment presentations (we do these in classes and all-school meetings), include photos, stories, or video of past projects. If you don’t have past projects, use examples of what other groups have done.
- Say “Yes” to single-session presentations. These presentations, while not evidence-based in creating behavioral change, have helped us raise our visibility in the community. For example, we got a lot of new interest after a 1 hour presentation on healthy online relationships to a group of LGBTQ youth.
Peers Building Justice uses Safe Dates as the foundation for our evidence-based curriculum. Since our collaboration recognizes oppressions like sexism, racism, classism, etc. as root causes of relationship abuse, we have adapted Safe Dates to include parts of the School of Unity and Liberation and Expect Respect’s curricula. Additionally, we strengthened Safe Dates’ curriculum to talk more about sexual assault and consent. For an outline of our adapted curriculum, visit http://www.peersbuildingjustice.com/curriculum/.
Our next project is to use the Sexual Violence Prevention program of CDPHE’s adaptation guide to incorporate media literacy into our presentation. This great resource helps us keep our curriculum current without compromising fidelity.
We hope that this description of our program helps your organization grow and succeed in making your communities safer and more supportive places for teens! Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on our activities or email firstname.lastname@example.org.