Steamboat Springs Peer pressure isn't always a bad thing, particularly not when it comes from a group of highly trained student-educators who talk to their classmates about tough topics like dating violence and drug use.
Steamboat Springs High School's peer educators are a group of students working with Advocates Against Battering and Abuse to connect with people their own age and talk about date rape, dating violence, alcohol and drugs, and making good decisions.
"Since we're the same age, they relate to us so much better," senior and peer educator Casey Wheeler said.
This year, the group has given about 10 presentations, including a final one on Wednesday. The timing of the presentation coincides with graduation and a crop of seniors going off to college, where they will be faced with new challenges.
"It raises awareness before they're going off to a strange place," senior Mike Daschle said.
On Wednesday, as part of a peer education program, a group of mostly seniors listened to a young local victim of sexual assault who pressed charges against her alleged attacker.
"I didn't think it would happen to me because it was a friend of mine," she said.
It had an effect on the students who asked her intelligent questions after she spoke, led by five peer educators sitting in a row at the front of the room. Their presence changes the dynamics of the presentations, the peer educators said.
"The fact that we care is important," senior Melony Avella said.
The Violence Prevention and Peer Education Program is in its fourth year, and the students at Steamboat Springs High School have been involved anywhere from one to three years. There is also a program at Soroco High School. The consistency has been part of the program's success, Advocates Executive Director Diane Moore said.
The students have been through 15 to 20 hours of training, learning about the dynamics of date rape and dating violence, the effects of alcohol and drugs in these situations and the concept of victim-blaming. They also get a view from law enforcement on these issues. The training is intense, Moore said, although the students do not do any counseling, but merely refer students to Advocates.
This year, the group made a 10-minute video that can be shown for years to come, and Wednesday's speaker was the first one the group has used, which added a real-life element to its program. The peer educators also put on their own version of the MTV program "Loveline" for a group of freshmen last week.
The peer educators said other students are more comfortable asking them questions, rather than asking a teacher. They are on the same level and the example they set is a good one.
"Since we use the graphic words, it's OK for them to use them," Emily Howard said.
"We're not talking down to them," Wheeler added.
There have been several male students involved in the program and it has made an impression, senior Courtney Bell said.
"For Mike (Daschle) to stand up there and say 'When a girl says no, it means no' is a big deal," Bell said.
The peer educators also come armed with statistics, rattling off numbers about date rape and assault. Advocates received 34 reported cases of sexual assault in 1999 in Routt County. Eighteen of those were from teens, Bell told the group.
"We've had more reporting by teens and I think this program has to do with that," Moore said.
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