By RACHEL C. DOVE
MATEWAN - Teen dating violence is a topic we’re hearing about quite frequently in the media, not to mention the concern about cases that occur but are never reported.
These troubling facts have prompted Michelle Ball, Legal Aid Advocate for the Williamson based Tug Valley Recovery Center to implement a pilot program in an area middle school entitled TAP, “Teen Action Partnership.”
This program works directly with teens and pre-teens on issues of teen dating violence; signs to look for, preventive measures to take and what to do if it occurs.
Ball spoke with the Daly News about the program established at the Matewan Middle School that is overseen by board members John Mark Hubbard, President of the Mingo County Commission; Matt Chandler, Asst. Prosecuting Attorney for Mingo; Tyler Blackburn, Teacher at Matewan Middle; Kelly Dotson, STOP Coalition and Shannon Blackburn, Principal of Matewan Middle. Ball serves as coordinator of the program.
“This is the first year this program has been implemented by the shelter,” said Ball. “This program consists of a board of community involved individuals that I personally selected I felt would make a true, heart-felt interest in the students and their concerns.”
The program works more as a one on one basis with a small group of students that are selected by the principal and teachers. The students come from different ethnic and social backgrounds; they represent a variety of types of teens and pre-teens, which allows for a well-rounded discussion session.
“I have met with this group of students six times so far this year,” said Ball. “During these meetings, we have discussed teen dating violence and other pressing issues. I asked each student to provide me a list of questions or concerns they would like to have addressed by the board members.
“I provided each member a copy of the questions and concerns. I scheduled a day for the board members to come to Matewan and talk with these students. The students were allowed at any point to ask a question about the information given.
“The students were extremely respectful of the speakers and asked great questions. They had put a lot of thought into them,” said the coordinator. “The questions they posed to the speakers showed not only that they were listening, but they were interested.”
Ball said that during these sessions, she quickly realized our children are being raised in totally different environments and atmosphere that children were 10-15 years ago. They are so much more aware of and educated in sex-related topics, and become sexually active at a much younger age than those youth of years gone by.
The idea behind this program is to work with certain students to get an idea of the type, and the extent, of dating violence that takes place within the school. Ball provides them with information on the subject, and advice on what to do if it ever happens to them or to someone they know.
Each member brought something very special to the table. They shared their knowledge with the students and made each one aware that they were only a phone call away if they could ever be any assistance.
Educating the youth is very important to not only Ball, but to each member of this board who stated they certainly had their eyes opened to the world the children are being raised in. The hope of this program is to educate teens to prevent them from becoming victims of date violence and abuse.
For more information on this program, you may contact Ball at 304-235-6121, ext. 203.