Youth working to promote healthy relationships around Pagosa Springs

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    By John Finefrock and
    Cheryl Bowdridge
    Rise Above Violence

    Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end this weekend, but Rise Above Violence’s work to assist victims and teach local students about healthy relationships continues all year long.

    For about three years, Rise Above Violence has facilitated an elective at Pagosa Springs High School called YouthRise. YouthRise students focus on social justice issues that affect the community, including high school teen dating violence, bullying, cyberbullying, mental health and sexual assault awareness. Due to the limited availability of local schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rise Above Violence is now offering YouthRise outside of school on Fridays at 2 p.m., which is now open to seventh- through 12th-grade students from any school in the community and/or home-school students.

    At Rise’s annual “Art Above Violence” event earlier this month, Rise Executive Director Carmen Hubbs commented on the work Rise’s youth advocates have historically done with the young people of Pagosa Springs.

    “Our youth advocates — they’re teaching children who are in K-12 schools that their hands are not for hitting, that no one deserves to be hit or hurt. No one. Ever,” she said. “Our youth in middle schools are learning about Internet safety so they can be safe from Internet predators — because that’s becoming more and more of a threat. Our high-schoolers, they’re learning now about healthy relationships — they’re learning what equity and respect means in relationships.”

    Hubbs said that Rise’s advocates “truly want to work ourselves out of our jobs.” She cited one of Rise’s national partners, who made the ambitious goal of “ending sexual violence in one generation.”

    “I absolutely believe it can be done in one generation. That’s an ambitious goal, but I think we can get there,” Hubbs said at the Art Above Violence event, adding, “Our youth are our key, that’s where we’re gonna make this change, that’s where this is gonna happen … They’re our key to reach those ambitious goals that we’re talking about. Can it happen in one generation? I hope so. That’s the goal.”

    YouthRise is offered each Friday at 2 p.m. and all seventh- through 12th- grade students are welcome. We’re currently meeting at the pergola at Yamaguchi Park, though that meeting location could change as the weather gets colder. For more information about YouthRise, contact Cheryl Bowdridge at 946-5276.

    YouthRise students are currently planning a Mindfulness Walk scheduled for Nov. 8, starting at noon, for a chalk art contest, and 1 p.m. for the mindfulness walk around Yamaguchi Park and on the Riverwalk. So, parents, mark your calendars, and seventh- through 12th-grade students: come help us plan on Fridays at 2 p.m. Stay tuned to the pshs.youth.rise Instagram account or the Rise Above Violence Facebook page for more information about the event.

    With the help of Pagosa students and other community members, we will work towards ending domestic violence and sexual assault in one generation. Join us. 

    Rise Above Violence is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving more than 300 victims each year. Rise also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community. All programs and services are free and confidential, including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs. Visit www.riseaboveviolence.org for more information or call 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today.