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Recognizing Worth | prevention blog

Summer 2024

Written by Melissa Cruz, Prevention Educator


A young man in middle school asked me a question, and it has stayed with me.

“Can you teach us how to be respectful?”

He asked the question aloud in class and wrote in on his paper.

This is fresh on my mind because I just taught about respect recently to 12 young men.

I love to teach. But I want to hear what the youth have on their minds.

So, when asked the question, I answered, “Do you know what respect means?”

The answers were along the lines of treating others how we want to be treated.

Ok. But, if that's the definition, then this class wasn’t treating each other with much “respect."

So, I asked a follow-up question. If I take a $50 bill and tear it in half – would you be ok with that?

Answers included, “No!” …and “That’s not ok!”

So, I asked the students, “Why? Isn’t it just paper?”

The answers then reflected the value.

I’ve been in many schools and seen signs throughout the halls about “Respect.”

But what does respect mean?

Part of respect is to highly regard – and recognize worth.

A $50 bill isn’t just a piece of paper because it has been given value.

We recognize the worth.

I love to end my teaching time by giving students a card with the words, “You are worthy of being protected.” I have made hundreds of these “Worthy” cards over the last two school seasons being a prevention educator.

I’ve heard students say, “You made these for us?” And “Do we get to keep these?”

Most of the time, a peaceful quiet comes over the classes as they receive the little handwritten notes.

This summer, a new glossy card was created with this “Worthy” message! And the card includes the gold stars that were inspired by my boss. She likes to say, “Gold stars!” when someone says something good.

I am grateful this message will be given to all students that we teach!

I want each student to know, we see you – and we recognize your worth.

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