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Springfield students educate peers on teen dating violence

The goal is for Springfield's Teen PEP program to expand into other schools in the area.

HOLLAND, Ohio — It's a normal part of life; teenagers ignoring their parents.

But when it comes to relationships or other personal matters, a program called Teen PEP is making a big difference in our kids' lives.

Mikayla King of Springfield High School seems mature beyond her junior year; life is not just about her. She's on a mission to help fellow students.

"It is bringing forward issues that need to be talked about more for us as teenagers," King said.

Mikayla is doing her part to keep others safe from teen dating violence as one of the Teen PEP program's student leaders. PEP stands for Peers Educating Peers.

Credit: Tim Miller
Springfield High School is one of 14 local schools with a Teen PEP program

Springfield is one of 14 high schools in Northwest Ohio that have a Teen PEP team. They educate high school and junior high students of the dangers of physical, sexual and verbal abuse by someone they're dating.

"Us kids have gone through it so they understand that we have gone through it and we get it. We understand where they're at at this point in their life because we've been there," King said.

ProMedica secures grant money to educate the students, giving them the tools they need to protect their peers.

"Teen dating violence: that's really the prevention of domestic violence, if you think about it. If we can teach young people how to have healthy relationships early on, then we are strengthening families later down the road, right?" Teen PEP project director, Danielle Cisterino-Hajdu said. 

Teen PEP leaders aren't afraid to go before large groups of students.

Katie Vogt is a social studies and sociology teacher at Springfield High and is a key adviser to the students.

"And as we try to help not only the victim and the people in the relationship, but what I really like about the program is that it also reaches the friends who might have a friend who is in an abusive relationship," Vogt said.

Teen PEP leaders say it's unfortunately easier to be a victim of teen dating violence, since social media makes it harder to get away from a problem. 

"Even if the kids aren't involved in it yet, we give them the tools of how to process it and how to handle that situation when it does happen," Vogt added.

Mikayla King is learning how to make a difference, and knows when to jump into action when opportunity knocks. 

She told us she has seen success stories.

"So we did a presentation about teenage violence to I think 7th and 8th graders for a health class. And I feel like when we were talking about it, I could see some kids were like, 'Wow, this might be what I'm going through in my relationship right now,'" King said.

"I have kids of my own and I want to know that I feel confident that their teachers are there for them, but I also want them to know that there are peers out there that have their best interests at hand, too," Vogt said.

They get so many great applicants for Teen PEP, but can only take about a dozen kids each year.

Vogt would like to see the program expand to other local schools.

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