Raymond Squartsoff, a 19-year-old student at Yaakoosge Daakahidi alternative high school, didn't pay much attention to domestic violence.
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That is, until he learned that Alaska has one of the highest rates in the nation.
"I didn't notice how much violence there actually was in this community until we started this program," Squartsoff said. "You learn a lot about your state and how things need to be changed."
Squartsoff and his classmates in a leadership and service course at Yaakoos recently completed a nine-week domestic-violence unit, taught in partnership with the United Way of Southeast Alaska and the Juneau Delta Project.
As part of the project, the students have been raising awareness for the White Ribbon Campaign, a 15-year international grassroots effort to encourage men to end violence against women.
The campaign officially begins Nov. 25, the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women, and runs until Dec. 10. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"Our goal has been to connect youth within our community and show them that they have a place and they can be involved," said Daniel Ungier, from the United Way. "Students really have a chance to tackle the issue and address other students with the message."
White Ribbon Campaign
When: Officially begins Nov. 25, but has started with a kickoff campaign at Yaakoosge Daakahidi alternative high school.
for more information: visit whiteribbon.com. call aware at 586-6623.
"It's really a lot of what Yaakoos' mission is all about," said Christy Bergman, with United Way and Yaakoos. "Students develop self-employable skills that are essential for post-graduation success. We try to incorporate projects in our class that will involve those skills."
The White Ribbon Campaign began in 1991, when a group of Canadian men began a grassroots effort to encourage men to speak out against domestic violence. Six weeks later, more than 100,000 Canadian men were wearing ribbons.
The campaign has since spread to at least 50 counties.
"I think a lot of kids, especially girls, don't realize that even the smallest violence against women can escalate into a much bigger problem in relationships," said Brandi Vrabec, 16.
"More people need to know," said Robert Slagle, 19. "We need to educate more people, so we can lower Alaska's rates."
The students visited offices and businesses including Tlingit and Haida, JRC The Alaska Club, the Nugget and Mendenhall malls, and SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. They also talked with students at Juneau-Douglas High School.
"When an adult talks to a kid, I don't think (the kids are) up for hearing it," Vrabec said. "When I talk to my friends about it, they actually listen."
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org