In February of 2016, the Walter and Andrew Young Family YMCA in Atlanta, Georgia began using The Empower Youth Program with students who are part of the Maya Angelou Teen Center. As a former teacher, counselor, and assistant superintendent, I really enjoyed teaching The Empower Youth Program to the youth there.
The goal of The Empower Youth Program is to help students learn the importance of empathy and to develop strategies to stay safe from exploitation. It is so much more than a curriculum. The iEmpathize team has done an amazing job collaborating with experts around the country to help our youth identify cultural influences, unhealthy relationships, addictions, media literacy, and more, all leading to an understanding of how our culture plays a crucial role in human trafficking. I truly believe this curriculum is what is needed in every school today if we are going to begin a paradigm shift for the next generation. Change has to be made and this prevention-focused project is just the tool students need to begin making that change.
This exploitation prevention program is effective because it features youth sharing advice with youth. Students can easily connect to the youth featured in the film. Group discussions were lively and the students really responded well to the content of the curriculum, learning the realities of human trafficking nationally and locally. It was a tough subject to address but sadly, they were not shocked by the material. They see these risky situations in their communities daily. Remember, sex trafficking is not a socio-economic issue. Anyone can be effected so our kids must be armed to respond.
From an educator perspective, I would say the training was effective. I really enjoyed teaching the program. I had everything I needed in the program to properly relay information to the students. According to survey results, the students also enjoyed the process.
Having this discussion with students doesn’t just prevent teens from becoming victims; it also helps victims own their right to be survivors. There were young people in the class who – prior to experiencing the course – did not realize they were being exploited. They now understand that the exploitation was not their choice and they can overcome. They can still dream of a future. The Empower Youth Program has helped them continue to dream – and take control.
As Diane King – Executive Director of the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA – said, “The iEmpathize Empower Youth curriculum has made a significant impact for our youth at the Maya Angelou Teen Center. I believe that every teen and young adult should have the opportunity to participate in this powerful safety curriculum. Our students responded really well and we were able to open communication to really discuss modern day slavery and sex trafficking in a way that will ensure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid these horrific situations.”
Children need awareness. They need to know they have a voice. I was honored to teach them how to recognize the risks and assure them that their voices will be heard. I will recommend The Empower Youth Program to my colleagues in education.
Guest Blogger April Anderson, Ed.D., facilitated The Empower Youth Program at the Walter and Andrew Young Family YMCA in Atlanta, Georgia. April has over 15 years experience working as a teacher, school counselor, and school administrator.
Interested in facilitating the program yourself? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.