| New program guides local teens toward healthy relationships
By Amanda S.F. Hartle
FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Children and teenagers often learn important lessons on dating, friendship and drugs from actors on after-school television movies.
Now the lessons are being learned another way, after school at Moon Area High School from familiar faces.
Together Pittsburgh, a faith-based group approved by the state Department of Education, is in its sixth week of providing a course focused on building healthy relationships.
The 26 participating teenagers have not stopped talking or asking questions throughout the weekly, two-hour sessions, according to Moon teacher Mistydae Junko.
"It's something we really believe in. We want to connect with kids and help them build relationships. It is going to help them throughout life," said Junko, who team teaches the course with fellow teacher Sean Snowden.
The high school was selected along with three other schools to provide the free program that Nancy Hornsby believes could positively change Moon Area.
"It is going to impact Moon in a special way. We are hoping some of our curriculum will hit home and make a major change in students," said Hornsby, Twogether's high school program director.
According to the 2006 Love is Not Abuse survey, 20 percent of teenagers admitted to being physically abused in a relationship, and 50 percent say they have gone against their beliefs to please a partner.
Changing those statistics is what the program seeks by teaching teenagers to know themselves before they attach to a peer.
The program employs two main components -- dating and emotions, and relationships and marriage -- that will be discussed, according to Twogether's Web site.
Having teenagers discussing marriage may seem hasty to some, but Hornsby believes the lessons present the adult decision in an informative and non-persuasive manner.
"I believe this is the best curriculum out there. I believe if students go through this program, it will help them make better decisions, understand there are consequences for their decisions and create a better (school) climate," says Hornsby.
For the students, the relaxed atmosphere and thought-provoking curriculum sparks conversation, as opposed to classroom lectures, said teacher Jay Junko.
"With this, it is much more 'What do you take out of it? What is important to you?'"
A letter to parents and a week of being featured on the school's announcements drew students from each grade and all walks of life.
"We ended up with a good cross-section of kids," said Michael Hauser, high school principal.
Some of the schools involved in the program are using it as an intervention for students in danger, Hornsby said.
"Moon is using this as a leadership and mentorship course. I'm glad because it allows me to see this program can be an asset to all students and an opportunity for all students to grow."
Spreading the message to other schools seems to be on the agenda as Hornsby hopes to reach at least 10 schools next school year.