RUTLAND - Cierra Phelps, a member of the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter, who is in the Public Safety Services Program, recently wrote and was awarded a competitive national grant dealing with teen dating violence prevention. The grant was one of 10 nationwide that was granted by DoSomething.org with funds from the Liz Claiborne Foundation.
After being awarded the grant, Cierra and her fellow SADD members and classmates went to work to fulfill the requirements of the grant, which was challenging as the grant required an initial presentation of the program, which was called "Hands Are Not For Hitting", in the space of about 10 school days. The centerpiece of the program was a "silent witness" campaign, 8 plywood silhouettes of victims of dating violence, each with a personal story. The 8 silhouettes were of 6 women, 1 man, and 1 dog. Animals are often victims of domestic violence and teen dating violence and are abused to terrify the victim or used as a pawn in the relationship. The plywood silhouettes were made by Mr. Jeff Fowler of the Construction Technology Program and his students and then were painted by Stafford Technical Center SADD members Cierra Phelps, Haley Cotrupi, and Erika Stocker from Mill River Union High School, Jo Lilly from Otter Valley Union High School, and Kayla Stewart from West Rutland High School.
The students developed a pledge for others to sign, which included a pledge not to be involved in an abusive relationship, either as the abuser or the abused person, and also, if they are a bystander witness to domestic or dating violence, to take some action, if only to report the abuse. The SADD members set up the silent witness campaign outside the cafeteria that serves the students at Rutland High School and Stafford Technical Center. There was also a table where students or staff members could get information. Over 400 people signed the pledge that day and were given a purple silicone bracelet with the saying "Hands Are Not For Hitting" on it. The bracelets and the "witnesses" fostered a lot of discussion.
The SADD members wore T-shirts that were designed by Paige Mayer of the Stafford Digital Arts Program, so that people could identify the members and ask them questions. The shirts, which had a silhouette and the "Hands Are Not For Hitting" logo on them, were so striking that a number of people asked to be able to buy T-shirts. The SADD members quickly decided to sell the shirts as a fundraiser, and to donate the profits to the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter. Additionally, the SADD members were asked to do a presentation to the Forestry, Natural Resources, and Horticulture class. Cierra Phelps had a presentation on this topic that she had prepared for a college PowerPoint class at the College of St. Joseph as part of her program of study in the Public Safety Services Program, and she and two other SADD members, James Reed, a junior from Mill River Union High School, and Kyle Lenher, a junior from Proctor High School, presented the program to the Forestry students.
Other Stafford Technical Center SADD members taking part in this project were Rutland High School seniors Chris Crout, Jordan Grenier, James Bonilla, and Ashley Barnes, Mill River Union High School seniors Cantlin Eaton, Kayla Jones, and Nate Hance, and Geoffry McDonald, a senior at Otter Valley Union High School.
The students also implemented this program for students at the College of St. Joseph, and are available to do a "silent witness" display at other schools or organizations.