Family Safety Network – $5,000
The Community Foundation of Teton Valley is honored to further support the Family Safety Network by awarding a full grant award of $5,000 for an ongoing program that empowers youth leaders to foster a culture of healthy relationships. The Community Foundation strongly supports Family Safety Network’s efforts to prevent domestic and sexual violence and create a community where everyone thrives in collective safety.
Through its work in our community, the Family Safety Network knows firsthand that many children and youth witness domestic violence in their homes. Teachers and school counselors within the Teton County School District confirm the deep concern for students who live in abusive homes and those who are in unhealthy relationships. Teachers articulate, and students agree, that youth struggle to understand the foundational components of healthy relationships, such as respect, boundary setting, and communication. Local student surveys verify these concerns. While Family Safety Network was implementing healthy relationship curriculum at the high school and middle school, students were surveyed on how important they viewed this topic to be. The median rating on the importance of this topic in the high school health and teen living classes was a seven out of seven, and the middle school was a six out of seven. The Teton Valley community needs more significant violence prevention efforts and education on healthy relationships. If the community takes this reality seriously, it is vital to equip and empower youth to be part of the solution to address this problem. When youth take action and lead, their peers are more open to listening, ultimately leading to a better chance of having a genuine cultural shift. The long-term goal is that through increased education, training, and prevention, the cycle of violence will be interrupted, creating a culture that values healthy relationships and consent. With growing prevention efforts, sexual and domestic violence can be decreased in Teton Valley and beyond.
This grant will continue support for a teen internship program that Family Safety Network launched in the 2021-2022 school year. In its first year, four interns representing diverse backgrounds, and each high school grade participated in the program. Partially funded through a 2022 Community Foundation of Teton Valley grant, the number of interns grew to nine during the 2022-23 school year. The 2023 Community Foundation grant will continue to support the program during the 2023-24 school year. In its third year, the program will equip and empower ten interns passionate about creating a thriving culture of healthy relationships, consent, support, and gender equity. Family Safety Network is working diligently to make the program self-sustaining.
Teton Valley youth interns receive extensive training on teen dating violence, the role of technology in dating, consent culture, bullying prevention, bystander intervention, how to support a friend experiencing violence, and more. Led by a Family Safety Network Prevention Educator and Youth Advocate (PEYA), the training empowers youth to speak out and lead the charge against emotional and physical violence in their peer groups and at school. In addition to the training, interns plan and implement outreach events in the community about teen dating violence and sexual assault awareness. The program recognizes the inherent dignity and autonomy of youth by valuing and centering their voices in prevention and awareness work. The internship allows Teton Valley youth to gain experience in leadership, social justice work, advocacy work, social media messaging, and event planning.
The PEYA will oversee the youth internship. Interns will meet weekly for a two-hour meeting, share a meal, check in with each other, participate in team-building activities and training, and work on outreach efforts (including awareness campaigns, education, and events). Over the past two years, interns have collaborated with the PEYA to facilitate classroom discussions about Healthy Relationships at Teton High School and Middle School, Driggs Elementary School, and Mountain Academy. Additionally, they have designed social media outreach materials, including creating the @Family Safety Network teens Instagram page, and organized events and projects for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. These opportunities and more will be available to our future intern team. Chloe Wehner, a 2022-23 intern, reflected on the importance of this work:
Teen dating violence is not talked about enough. I have witnessed my peers stay in unhealthy relationships because they do not feel comfortable leaving or do not understand the toxic magnitude of the relationship and how it affects them. As a Family Safety Network Intern, I have learned how to support people in these situations… Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is important because it highlights the unspoken realities many teenagers face and how we, as a community, can support them. It helps ensure that teenagers are properly educated on healthy & unhealthy relationships, what they can do if they are in an unhealthy relationship, and how to support and advocate for someone in this situation.
Interns will be paid a monthly stipend of $100 between the months of September-May. Participants will track their time spent in meetings and working independently on internship projects on activity logs that are submitted monthly. The PEYA will solicit feedback from participants and community partners in May about the effectiveness of the Teen Interns for Healthy Relationships program. The Family Safety Network program will role model that youth are valued, respected, and deserve to have their voices heard through a transparent hiring process, regular evaluations, opportunity for program feedback, fair pay, and a work environment built on self-care, support, and trust. The values being taught in the program are integrated into the structure of the internship.
The Community Foundation commends the important work of the Family Safety Network’s Teen Interns for Healthy Relationships program to empower youth leaders to foster a culture of healthy relationships.