June 11 2014 12:00 AM

Lansing shelter involves students in abuse prevention

Gustavo Medde, Flickr/CC.

WEDNESDAY, June 11 — The Lansing domestic abuse shelter EVE is creating a Youth Advisory Board to combat teen dating violence. The board, which will develop dating violence prevention programs, will be made up of Ingham County students in grades 9 through 11. The goal is to develop abuse education curricula to present to area schools and community centers.

“They’ll be a voice for ending dating violence,” said EVE spokeswoman Rachel Berzack. She recently opened the application process and hopes to fill 10 to 12 spots on the board by August. She said meetings will take place about every three weeks during the school year.

Berzack said she is looking for passionate, community-minded teenagers who can empower and engage their fellow students.

“I’m hoping that we get a wide variety of different students from different schools,” she said. “Having the students involved on a collaborative level makes it more interesting. Students are more receptive when information comes from peers.”

The program will also promote outreach beyond the high school level. Berzack plans for the student advisors to develop anti-bullying curriculums and presentations for local elementary schools to open the dialogue for younger students as well.

“Those same elementary students will go through the dating violence program in high school,” she said. “We’ll be layering the information.”

The creation of the board is funded through a $4,200 grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation. Berzack said the grant covers a year’s worth of materials, food and the cost of travel to schools and other locations to present programs.

“We hope to have the ability to be frugal and diligent and extent those funds beyond a year,” Berzack said. She said she expects to reapply for the grant to keep the board running.

With about one in three students experiencing some form of dating abuse by high school, she said, it’s important for the board to be a long-term presence in the community.

“It’s crucial,” she said. “This will make the information relevant and more real.”