Green Dot

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Ronda Howard, prevention coordinator, left, and Shelly Nichols, prevention educator, on Monday at New Beginnings.

New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services offers a program that teaches high school students how to intervene when they see incidents of power-based personal violence, including dating violence, bullying, harassment and stalking.

At the high school level, the program is titled Green Dot.

The evidence-based program has developed such a following that New Beginnings is expanding its educational suite to include a middle school program titled Shifting Boundaries, which helps kids determine what a healthy relationship looks like and how to develop boundaries.

Shelly Nichols joined New Beginnings in February and will teach Shifting Boundaries. Prior to joining New Beginnings, Nichols was the executive director of OASIS Women's Shelter, a residential domestic violence program.

Also, New Beginnings is hiring another employee to teach an elementary program called Play It Safe, which is a kid-friendly version of Good Touch, Bad Touch.

Ronda Howard, New Beginnings prevention coordinator, has taught Green Dot for several years.

"We train students to be active bystanders," Howard said.

In Green Dot classes, high school students learn the three Ds:

• Direct -- How to intervene and take care of the situation.

• Delegate -- Call emergency 911 or a parent or teacher.

• Distract -- Use a distraction to get someone out of a risky situation.

"They do a lot of practice," Howard said. "We talk about obstacles and why people don't intervene."

Schools choose about 25 student leaders to take Green Dot training, which is an all-day session. Then, it is their job to teach their classmates -- and eventually their communities.

And that's the next step, Howard said. Someday, New Beginnings hopes to offer Green Dot training to the public.

A five-year independent study showed that schools that took part in Green Dot training reported up to 21% fewer rapes, stalkings, episodes of dating violence and incidents of sexual harassment, Howard said.

"That's a pretty big deal," she said.

Natalie Taylor took Green Dot training when she was a student at Owensboro Innovation Academy. She graduated in May and plans to attend the University of Louisville in the fall.

"I loved how interactive (Green Dot) was, and the events we got to participate in," Taylor said. "We were given the tools to spread awareness and get out people wanting to know what Green Dot was and how they could join or help."

The program showed her bystanders can do much more to turn around a situation.

"It taught me that you shouldn't wait for others to help, that you shouldn't be scared to step up and help someone," she said. "Green Dot really inspired me -- even now that I'm moving to college. I want to work with the peace program at the University of Louisville, which does some of the same things."

Holly Johnson is an Apollo High School teacher. Before New Beginnings brought Green Dot to that school, teachers used curriculum from health books related to violence, harassment and bullying.

"(Green Dot works) to change the culture of the school by building relationships with students and empowering students to become 'green dots,' " Johnson said.

She sees evidence that the program has changed students' attitudes. They help in the halls and classrooms to promote kindness and respect for others. Also, they are less fearful about speaking up, asking for assistance or reporting a violent situation.

"Middle school students need the skills the Green Dot program can offer," Johnson said.

Brenden King was trained in Green Dot at OIA also.

"Green Dot changed my thoughts on how I should approach a situation," King said. "It opened my eyes to try and help any person in need. The program showed me that every good action can spread like a wildfire, and with enough good actions, we can overcome all of the hate and violence in our world."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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