Teens Pay it Forward—Everyone can make a difference - Human Options

Blog by Vivian Clecak, Founding CEO

One out of five teens has been involved in date abuse. We read again and again about teens who see a rape and either ignore it or shoot a video and share it with other friends. As adults we ask ourselves how we can possibly change this teen culture of acceptance and even approval of violence, of blaming the victim, of not caring about the girl who was unconscious and vulnerable.

Five days a week, sometimes as many as five hours a day, Human Options’ community educator is teaching teens in high schools and community programs about the nature of date abuse, warning signs, and ways to build healthy relationships.

We receive emails and texts from teens that have heard our educator and tell us what a difference it has made. We hear from teens who say it changed their lives. And we hear from teens who are working to change the lives of others.

Ashley Elfend learned about Human Options through her mother Liz Elfend who volunteered on the Human Options hotline for many years. Ashley was a member of a mother/daughter group her mom organized which sponsored wonderful holiday parties for children at the emergency shelter. A high school senior, Ashley wanted to make a difference. She and three friends, Lior Shimoni, Jamie Lobel, and Kayla Sukert had a great idea to do a fashion show which would be an educational event and fund raiser for Human Options at the same time. I attended this incredible event which reached over 200 people and combined teen culture and education.

Ashley wrote me about her reasons: “ I volunteered with my mom at Human Options for a few years. The cause is close to my heart and so important to me as a young woman. I really wanted to show all my peers. I hope that people will spread the word about Human Options and the lives it has changed. Finally I hope that people will do everything they can to break the cycle of violence.”.

Fereidoun Firouzgar is a 23 year old college student who has begun volunteering at Human Options. He shared the reasons for his choice: ”A year ago I was taking an introductory psychology class at Irvine Valley College and heard a spokesperson from Human Options. I thought to myself that this isn’t just some story you hear on the news or read in the paper. It is something which actually does happen. I think it is as simple as I care and I want to help make a difference. People who have suffered should have a support system and if I can be a part of that and help someone else, then I’ll go for it.”

Fereidoun is about to transfer to Cal State Fullerton to major in psychology and probably become a social worker.

Several years ago I saw a teenage girl, Susan, and her parents for counseling. The young girl had been a victim of date abuse for over a year. She told no one. Finally she told her best friend. Her friend had heard our community educator speak and she told Susan, “This is wrong. It must stop. If you don’t tell your parents by next week I will.” Susan told her parents. They supported her totally and helped her end the relationship and built a stronger family connection.

These are the stories of six young people who took a stand. We can grow these numbers! The Green Dot program is a national initiative designed for high school and college students. The Green Dot program trains young people to replace a culture of interpersonal violence and inaction with one of support and safety. Each “green dot” is a new behavior that promotes safety and positive community.

Our community education director, Shirley Gellatly, and Jillian Cole, our community educator, will be joining an intensive training program at UCI to become Green Dot educators. We will then work with a number of high school groups to educate teens to become green dot advocates for healthy relationships. We are committed to spreading green dots. If you are interested in having a community educator speak to your teen or parent group, please call Shirley Gellatly at 949-737-5242, ext. 214 or email Jillian Cole at [email protected] or myself at [email protected] Each one of us can make a difference and everyone matters.


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