A GIFT TO YOUTH: THE EMPOWER YOUTH PROGRAM

FILE UNDER: Prevention

My name is Erin; I’m a director at UnBound — an anti-trafficking organization in Seattle, WA — and I have the privilege of directing our prevention programs with youth. Our targeted age groups are juvenile detention centers and middle schools because of the risk factors faced by those groups. Youth in systems like juvenile detention and corrections or foster care are at a higher risk for exploitation (note this report from the U.S. Children’s Bureau) and many organizations across the U.S. conclude that the median age of entry into sex trafficking is 13-14.

So far, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating iEmpathize’s Empower Youth Program with almost 200 youth through my outreach in juvenile detention centers and middle schools. Each school or juvenile detention center in which I’ve used the program has requested to have the program facilitated again and with more of their youth.

The vast majority of youth I work with are amazingly bright and insightful and have simply endured an amount of difficulties most of us won’t ever endure, even as adults. I’ve had the privilege of developing relationships with female youth in juvenile detention and, because of that, they engaged with the curriculum in great depth. But, even when I was walking into a school classroom with no previous relationship with the youth, the curriculum was still powerful and effective.

Why do I believe so strongly in the Empower Youth Program?

  • The Empower Youth Program is incredibly relatable for youth and shares information in a powerful, yet non-sensationalized way. The youth I’ve worked with latch on quickly to the concepts and are able to recall and apply the material to their own lives. EYP gives youth the language to discuss exploitation in a healthy, helpful way.
  • The Empower Youth Program empowers YOU to facilitate this important material. You don’t need to have a special speaker to facilitate exploitation prevention. The EYP gives the opportunity to all people working with youth to introduce important topics and facilitate discussion in a meaningful, impactful way.
  • There are currently no evidence-based curriculums in the realm of exploitation prevention. iEmpathize is collecting data from the program and has the potential to become an evidence-based practice in this field, which is incredible.
  • Our country has seen many “prevention” curriculums floating around through the years. While I’m fairly new to the “anti-trafficking field,” multiple colleagues in the field in Seattle have said that they are more impressed with The Empower Youth Program than other prevention programs in the past.

And The Empower Youth Program works. Feedback from youth has been incredibly positive and included things like “I learned how to recognize the masks that exploiters wear,” and “This was a wakeup call for me.” The Empower Youth Program has allowed for important conversations in groups of youth and I believe it truly achieves its goals of nurturing the development of youth in empathy and empowering youth with skills to recognize and stay safe from exploitation. If you’re going to invest even just a bit of your time with youth, give them the gift of experiencing The Empower Youth Program.

-Written by Erin Drum, Community Engagement and Prevention Director, UnBound Seattle