Student facilitators in the RELATE program at William Byrd High School help their freshmen peers figure out the tough issues surrounding sexual violence prevention.
RELATE stands for Relationship Education Leading Adolescents Toward Empowerment. This year 60 juniors and seniors were trained as facilitators and worked with freshmen during their health classes between April 27 and May 4.
The RELATE program was established at WBHS by Joe Scott, the Student Assistance Program Coordinator at WBHS and WBMS. He directs the annual program, training student volunteers and working with teachers to facilitate scheduling. WBHS is currently the only high school in the county offering the program.
The goals of RELATE are to increase awareness for both male and female students of what constitutes sexual harassment, to expose sexual violence myths, and to educate students on the warning signs of abuse.
The student facilitators shared the RELATE concepts and led the discussions in the health classrooms of teachers Allison Thornton, Molly Deacon, and Russell Dishman.
Each year Scott recruits the student facilitators, who are juniors and seniors, and trains them in the curriculum and how to present it to the ninth graders. Many of the student presenters were recommended by administrators, teachers, counselors, or coaches.
The RELATE program at WBHS this year reached approximately 210 freshmen during 45 lessons in health class.
The student facilitators are equipped with curriculum guides; the freshmen have workbooks that help break the ice and include scenarios which encourage conversation. Written materials include situations similar to what students are likely to encounter in everyday life. Conversations develop in class about appropriate steps to take in each scenario and possible dilemmas the students, both facilitators and freshmen, may have faced.
The five sessions focus on “sexual violence, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, assertiveness techniques, protecting yourself from violence, and personal values and relationship goals.”
The session on sexual violence defines sexual violence and shares that it can happen to all people and in differing relationships; and that, most commonly, victims are violated by people they already know. The activity for this session shares statistics and elicits student opinions.
The “Healthy vs. Unhealthy” session identifies characteristics of healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships, helps students increase their awareness of how to maintain healthy relationships, identifies different relationships such as “dating, peer, and adult relationships and self-relationships” with discussions on boundaries, respect and appreciation, appropriate expressions of thoughts and feelings, balance, and understanding and being sensitive to needs.
The “Assertiveness Techniques” session emphasizes how to communicate with others—distinguishing between passive, assertive, and aggressive behaviors, and how assertive communication is valuable in developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
During the “Protecting Yourself from Violence” session, students identify actions, behaviors, and words that constitute sexual harassment and identify the “warning signs” of violence.
The “Personal Values and Relationship Goals,” session helps students examine what they value most in relationships and set goals for improving current or future relationships.
Students are not graded on the RELATE curriculum, but they do participate in pre-and post- testing to determine the benefits of the curriculum—what knowledge they have gained, or which attitudes might have been changed. The average RELATE Pre-test score was 68.4 percent this year; the average Post-test score was 85.92 percent—an increase of 17.5 percent.
Scott says the scores indicate that “there was positive learning through the presentation of the program.”
Student facilitators in 2018 earned 128 hours of community service—one hour for being trained as a RELATE facilitator and one hour for every session completed per facilitator.
The William Byrd RELATE facilitators this year included juniors Alexis Slusser, Alyssa Summey, Ashley Peters, Brianna Bray, Brooke Beeman, Cade Johnson, Celine Matar, Daniel Ellis, Emily Woods, Gavin Simpson, Hannah Schram, Jordan Logan, Joyce Wang, Kamdyn Settles, Kayla Turner, Kennah Hebert, Kylie Hedberg, Kyra Tucker, Madelyn Nance, Madison Hensley, Megan James, Megan Grant, Morgan Fletchall, Nathaniel Fedor, Nicholas Hale, Renee Hodges, and Tela Espelage.
Senior RELATE facilitators included Abby Spotswood, Alex Altice, Alexis West, Allison Faulkner, Analee Huber, Autumn Martin, Ava McCLung, Brenna Donahue, Caleb Divers, Grace Large, Sarah “Gracie” Tyus, Hannah Sowers, Jackson Honaker, Jasmine Allinson, Jeanette Sako, Julie Burek, Kaidyn Settles, Katie Fuchs, Kayla Nichols, Keenan McNamara, Kinley Moore, Lindsey Galliher, Lyndlee Renick, Madison Byrd, Maggie Bennett, Marissa Kopera, Ozioma Anyanwu, Payton Taylor, Rebecca Geisler, Savannah Gheen, Tabitha Gills, Taylor Campbell, and Whitney Tickle
Student facilitators believe it is beneficial to make freshmen aware of issues they may face and that they may accept the information best from their peers. Freshmen may also be more willing to share problems they have faced or are worried about encountering with peers than with teachers or parents.