Written by Melissa Cruz
One of the questions people ask when they first meet you is, “What do you do?”
My answer to that question changed last fall when I took on a different role within our agency. I am working as an educator with the prevention team at Crime Victim Services. I had just completed five years with the CASA program. I recognized a need for prevention through my time with CASA, and months before making the shift attended a training by the prevention team. When a position came open in the department, I felt a nudge to talk with the director. I’m thankful I did!
I’d like you to think for a moment about prevention education in schools.
What number of students do you believe we reach in one month?
I saw 250 students within my first month of prevention work! And just within three weeks of December – the work extended to 300 students!
Our reach is big!
What do we teach?
Part of our work as prevention educators in the schools is to inform and protect. We teach on topics including boundaries, healthy friendships and relationships, and bystander intervention. Our curriculum meets the Ohio Board of Education standards for social emotional learning and teen dating violence prevention. Then there’s the whole digital aspect of life. Our work includes teaching on Digital Citizenship – keeping our young people safe online.
We frame our teachings according to the grade we are presenting – whether elementary school, middle school, or high school. We are intentional about teaching our students how to set a boundary and respect the ones others have in place.
A standout for me in training for this role is the river story. The drawing above shows rescue workers helping people who have fallen into the water from a broken structure. But the prevention worker looks upstream to see why people are falling into the river in the first place. Then the preventionist finds out why the crossing is broken and what needs to be done to repair that structure to keep people from falling in.
My prior work focused on families needing “pulled from the river” so to speak. I have a heart for our youth. I know the hardships our children are facing within their homes and schools. I want to keep them safe back there on that bridge before they fall.
Our prevention team is primarily made up of educators. I’m honored to be in this crew. I see a commitment from them to our youth and that is inspiring to me. One of my co-workers asked me, “Are you ready to go love on our kiddos next week?” What a way to look at them! These are our kids in this community. Our kids – our upcoming teachers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. And I’m thankful for the school leaders who acknowledge, “Our students need this!”
When I ended my teaching series at one of the elementary schools recently, a comment became a gift to me. A little boy was one of the last ones to leave the classroom. As he was walking out, he turned around and said to me, “I wish this lesson would go on and on forever!” I told him he could take extra candy because that blessed my heart!
My intent is to connect this truth with the students: “You are worthy of being protected!”