HCN News & Notes

YWCA Awarded $111,111 Grant for Youth Violence-prevention Program

SPRINGFIELD — The YWCA of Western Massachusetts recently received $111,111.11 from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for its youth violence-prevention program, called the H.E.R.E. (Healthy Empowering Relationships and Education) Project. This evidence-based project has been successfully embedded in many Springfield middle and high schools for about 18 months. With this new grant funding, the YWCA intends to hire additional staff to reach more youth within area schools beyond Springfield.

The H.E.R.E. Project’s curriculum is specifically developed for teens, inclusive of all genders, and designed for applicability across gender, ethnicity, sexual identities, and socio-economic backgrounds.

It specifically targets Springfield youth ages 12-18 and aims to educate youth at risk for teen dating violence, sex trafficking of minors, and gang violence. During these classes, YWCA employees use varied teaching methods such as games, small and large group work, and role playing.

“We are over the moon to receive this valuable funding,” YWCA CEO Elizabeth Dineen said. “Our goal is to change the paradigm with education. As Maya Angelou stated, ‘when you know better, do better.’ If teens learn lifelong healthy relationship strategies and skills early on, we can eradicate domestic violence and sexual assault from our culture.”

The H.E.R.E. Project currently partners with 10 Springfield middle and high schools to deliver three evidence-based core curricula:

• One Love addresses healthy relationships and teen dating violence. Youth learn how to navigate relationship endings, communicate about boundaries, and how to identify and implement healthy relationship behaviors.

• Bout That Life addresses bystander intervention. Youth learn how to collaborate to form strategies to safely intervene as well as the unique challenges faced by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) youth.

• Not a Number raises awareness as to what constitutes human trafficking and exploitation. Youth learn about gang violence, how to recognize the recruitment tactics of traffickers, and how to safely navigate potential and existing exploitative situations.

All this information aims to give youth the tools to make safe and healthy relationship choices. YWCA staff visit the participating middle and high schools once per week for eight weeks, and since the start of the program more than 18 months ago, the H.E.R.E. Project has served about 600 students.