Phelps, a member of the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter, won a Liz Claiborne Foundation national grant for her plan to deal with the issue of teen dating violence-"Hands are not for Hitting".
Under Cierra's leadership, the Stafford SADD Chapter members undertook a number of activities to both raise awareness of the issue of teen dating violence as well as preventing this behavior.
The centerpiece of this project was the Silent Witness campaign, which included six plywood female silhouettes, one plywood male silhouette, and a plywood silhouette of a dog. Each of these had a story of teen dating violence attached.
The "Silent Witnesses" were placed outside of the cafeteria serving Rutland H.S. and Stafford Technical Center, and in the Student Center at the College of St. Joseph, and people had an opportunity to sign a pledge to not be involved in an abusive relationship or to be a bystander to dating violence, and were given a purple silicon bracelet stating "Hands are not for Hitting" after signing. About 500 people signed the pledge.
Other program pieces that were carried out by Cierra and her peers were: presenting to a whole-school assembly at Stafford Technical Center and a number of classroom presentations on the subject of teen dating violence, and holding a fundraising raffle for a cord of firewood, which benefitted the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter.
Cierra has made presentations on Healthy Relationships this year at a number of venues, including the 2011 Governor's Youth Leadership Conference to her fellow SADD student leaders from other schools.
Michelle Hnath, a Girl Scout Leader from the Reading, Pa., found about this project through the Internet, and contacted Jeff Fowler, the Stafford Construction Technologies Teacher, who had made the plywood silhouettes.
Fowler and the SADD Chapter provided Hnath with tracings of the silhouettes, the stories of the victims, the pledge against teen dating violence, and the outline of the "Hands are not for Hitting" project.
Hnath's group, Girl Scout Troop 134 of Muhlenberg Township, Pa., in coordination with Berks (County) Women in Crisis, is undertaking their project, which they called "Love is Not Abuse", at Muhlenberg H.S., a 921 student high school, and Oley H.S. (Pennsylvania), a 706 student high school the following week.
The "Love is Not Abuse" campaign includes most of the "Hands are not for Hitting" campaign and adds purple shoelaces worn by basketball players and cheerleaders at home games, special announcements, and student-made videos. The Berks Women in Crisis group is considering using the "Love is Not Abuse" campaign as a model to be used in all the Berks County, Pa., schools.
This is an example of the difference in people's lives that high schools students can make, even in others that they never meet.