ROCKPORT — For a second consecutive Valentine’s Day, the Women’s Student Organization at Camden Hills Regional High School is working to educate students on healthy relationships.
The Women’s Student Organization was founded at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year when three high school students created the Women’s Student Organization, which falls under the umbrella of the school’s Healthy Relationships Committee designed to educate students on the importance of healthy dating relationships.
“Our group was asked to help this committee reach its goals,” said Lora Levenseler, the student group’s adviser, in a Feb. 2019 interview.
The group, which has not officially been designated a school club, was cofounded by students Hope Bifulco, Grace Wrona and Morgan Knauer. The trio approached Levenseler, a math teacher at the high school, about being their adviser.
“Our mission is to help improve the environment for young women in our school community, and to support local and global women’s charities,” Bifulco said in a Feb. 2019 interview.
“Working with the Healthy Relationships Committee is one of the ways we can most effectively do so, while simultaneously providing everyone with information about healthy relationships,” Levenseler said about the group’s mission in 2019.
As the group did last year, the Women’s Student Organization will host a Valentine’s Day breakfast for students at the high school, sharing with students what constitutes a healthy relationship.
The group recently conducted a survey with students to see how the student body has been affected by signs of unhealthy relationships and will release the survey results at the breakfast.
Rachel Merrill, a representative from New Hope for Women, will be at the breakfast for students interested in signing a pledge and providing students with a pocket-sized version of their Declaration of Rights.
The Rockland-based New Hope for Women organization defines teen dating violence occurs when a person uses abuse — physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual — to gain power and maintain control over their partner with the abuse generally escalating over time. This month is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Iris Ichenlaub, the school’s librarian, will also be at the breakfast to promote an author talk with Maine author Maria Parian on the subject of sexual assault. Ichenlaub has worked on bringing Parian to the school and many of the WSO members will assist in facilitating lessons corresponding with the book.
Approximately 20 teachers at the school will wear orange ribbons at the breakfast, and for the rest of the month, to let students know those wearing the ribbon are someone students can confide in if they have questions or concerns about healthy relationships. Teachers will receive information and resources from New Hope for Women on how to best assist students.
Healthy signs, according to the student group, in a relationship include a partner who expresses anger appropriately; a partner who encourages you to do things together and with others; a partner who respects personal boundaries and sexual limits; and a partner who effectively communicates verbally.
The student group notes unhealthy signs, or red flags, in a relationship include a partner who blows up at little things; a partner who wants to isolate you from friends and family; a partner who has strong gender stereotypes; and a partner who pressures you for sex.
In addition to the breakfast, the Women’s Student Organization has been hard at work with other initiatives.
During the recent Christmas season, the group sponsored a family from New Hope for Women, and raised money through bake sales in Camden.
The group has also provided support for the Knox County Recovery Collaboration, which supports women recovering in the Midcoast, and babysat for single mothers in an effort to eliminate barriers for the mothers.
Reach George Harvey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.