The Family YMCA is hosting Healthy Relationship classes for high school youth 3:30-5 p.m., Thursdays at the Los Alamos Teen Center.
Additionally, a Teen Action Team is forming and meets 4-6 p.m., Fridays with the intention of sharing information with youth in the community.
The meetings are being held in response to requests by the Center’s users, Teen Center Director Sylvan Argo said. Recent discussion forums on the topic at the Center revealed that young people were interested in learning more about responsible, respectful and healthy relationships.
The discussion forums were held in August 2015, prompting Center staff to apply to the DWI Planning Council for funding, which was awarded. The grant allowed the Teen Center to hire a facilitator and purchase curriculum.
Instructor Crystal Hollon, a 1995 graduate of Los Alamos High School, has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work. She is a licensed clinical social worker and the Residential and Clinical Services Manager for the Esperanza Shelter in Santa Fe, and has been working part-time at the Teen Center since October 2015.
“I am very excited about this particular program because domestic violence, sexual assault, and teen dating violence prevention and awareness are my passion,” Hollon said. “The cycle of violence is passed on from generation to generation. If you don’t learn about healthy relationships when you’re young, you don’t have healthy relationships as an adult and can’t model them for your children.”
Hollon says many teens have never seen a healthy relationship. Teen dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors that one person uses to have control in a relationship with someone else, she explains. The abuser uses feelings of fear, humiliation, and degradation to control the other person. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial or emotional. The abuser often tries to control the victim’s time who they talk to, what they wear, and more. Some of these actions can be seen on the surface as romantic gestures but more often they are signs of a very unhealthy relationship, Hollon says.
While dating relationships are important to teens, Hollon wants to focus on building skills for all types of relationships. Students have expressed a desire to learn how to navigate the often challenging relationships they have with friends, parents, siblings, and teachers. Hollon says the tools the teens are learning will accomplish that goal.
Hollon previously worked at the State Department of Education in the Federal Programs Division. She was a co-coordinator of the Graduation Reality and Dual-Role Skills+ (GRADS+) grant that included oversight of Teen Dating Violence Campaigns at four school sites (Socorro, Ruidoso, Silver City, and Alamogordo), coordinated community response teams at two school sites (Socorro and Deming), and a young fathers pilot program in Rio Rancho and Bernalillo.
“Both the Thursday and the Friday classes teach teens about boundaries, conflict resolution, appropriate communication, intimate partner relationships, and dating rights,” Hollon said. “These are not ‘note-taking’ classes, but rather teens learn by discussing real-life examples of relationships and develop tools, not just for themselves, but that they can communicate to friends as peer educators.”
For more information, call the Los Alamos Teen Center at 505.695.7415, or email Sylvan Argo, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Los Alamos Teen Center is operationally funded by Los Alamos County, and administered by The Family YMCA.