Location,TX 75035,USA

A Higschooler’s Summer of Prevention

A Higschooler’s Summer of Prevention

The following is a reflection from Erin Levitas Foundation summer intern, Yasmeen. Yasmeen is a student at St. Timothy’s School, where Erin Levitas was a student. We’re moved by this connection, and believe Erin would be proud to see a legacy of prevention in this young advocate ❤️

“As a junior in highschool, we are required to obtain a certain number of hours of service work. So as the school year progresses, my classmates and I scramble to complete those hours so our record shows we fulfilled the requirement. But even though I had the right number of hours, something felt off. I felt that I wasn’t looking at service work as something to help people, but rather something I needed to do to have a spotless record. 

`I noticed that when someone has this approach towards anything, they don’t feel fulfilled with the work they have done. This is why I decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to a nonprofit this summer through my internship. 

I contacted Marissa Jachman, the Erin Levitas Foundation’s Executive Director, because I found ELF’s mission inspiring, and she connected me with Danielle Buynak Horner, the Director of Community Outreach and my internship started from there. 

One of the first things Danielle asked me was “What do you hope to get out of this internship?” – and though it seems like a simple question, I had to think about it. 

I wanted to learn how to create change in my community, how to produce something that impacts a group of people. I started reading packages and doing research on topics of consent, boundaries, and sexual harassment in schools. 

This was my first project and it helped me build a foundation that allowed me to successfully take on harder projects. Next, my focus went to community events where ELF gets to set up a table and spread awareness about prevention. I learned about how non-profits got the word out by directly speaking to the people they will be impacting. I learned that tabling can be anywhere from conferences to back-to-school nights, and I was in charge of creating a tabling activity that would make the experience more interactive.

Keeping a younger crowd in mind, I created a feelings wheel. The name is quite literal – it is a wheel with different emotions on it with emojis attached to each word. When I tested this out at a back-to-school event at Northwood Elementary School, I asked kids how they felt about school starting. They would take a small sticker and pin it by the emotion they were feeling. 

This activity was meant to promote self expression in children by teaching them how to identify their feelings. I chose this because research shows that higher levels of empathy can correlate to lower rates of sexual violence. 

When I tried this activity out with elementary-aged kids, I noticed that they were excited to participate, which meant they brought their parents over to our table and our message about prevention could spread to more people. I was able to see just how many people took the “Every Body Talk” book home – and was excited to see some even take multiple for their nieces/nephews. It made me think about how many lives were impacted from just those two hours that we tabled for. 

Those families took the books home, read them together, and understood the importance of boundaries and body safety. That means that this elementary school might have a safer and more respectful environment, which will continue to spread when students go on to middle and high schools. 

It was moments like these that made my internship this summer so special. I am now able to say that I personally worked on something that created positive change, and it’s a feeling that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. This experience showed me how nonprofits work, and it taught me that problems that may seem hopeless or impossible to fix – like sexual violence – can be challenged with enough perseverance. 

Even though the summer is over, I know my relationship with the Erin Levitas Foundation is not over. I look forward to many more events with ELF as well as working with them to create an educational campaign I will carry out at my own school.”

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