Training At-Risk Teens to Recognize and Respond to Exploitive Situations
“In the years that I have taught here, this is the first event we have ever done that students are actually talking about.” -Teacher at New America School Denver Campus
We spent last week equipping an entire high school in Denver to recognize and respond to exploitative situations. New America School is a charter school focusing on at-risk populations, immigrants and refugees. It was an incredible week of empowering this particular group of teens, inspiring them to empathize, engage and fight exploitation in their neighborhoods.
Our immersive multimedia program educates and empowers students and staff through films, photography, artifacts, and empathy exercises. Students engage in issues of exploitation in their own zip codes and around the world. This is radically eye opening and world expanding for many students.
Each class participated in an exercise designed to demonstrate one’s proximity to different kinds of suffering. There were four questions that almost all students responded to with the same answer:
Do you know someone who has attempted or committed suicide in the last two years? Yes.
Are you close to someone who has been sexually violated or assaulted? Yes.
Have you ever feared for your life? Yes.
Have you ever been tricked or manipulated by someone you trusted? Yes.
Many of the students live in a world where most people they know do jail time at some point. Sexual assault, violence and suicide are common and most have feared for their life. A difficult home life drives teens to look for acceptance and protection elsewhere opening the door for exploitation.
A majority of the students were not taught basics that could seem intuitive, such as don’t go out with strangers or don’t date guys who start hitting on you online. One girl told us “From now on I will definitely know who I’m with when I’m going somewhere!”
We are moved and inspired by the students of New America School Denver. We applaud the work of the staff. We are grateful for being welcomed in and the opportunity to move the school deeper towards empathy and strengthen student empowerment. Help us get this program launched on a national level.