Thursday October 27, 2016
The mission of Steps to End Domestic Violence is powerful. It reads, “To assist in the transition to a safe, independent life for all those who have been affected physically, sexually, emotionally, or economically by domestic abuse and to promote a culture that fosters justice, equity and safety.”
Emily Fredette is one of many at the organization who furthers this mission. A South Burlington resident, she is the education and prevention coordinator for Steps to End Domestic Violence. One of Fredette’s roles is training student volunteers in area schools to contribute to the culture of “justice, equity and safety” by becoming Peer Advocates. Part of the organization’s Education and Prevention Program, students who become Peer Advocates help develop resources and educate their school communities about domestic violence and healthy relationships.
South Burlington School District Healthy Schools Coordinator Susie Merrick, says of Fredette’s impact, “I have witnessed firsthand the thoughtful way this training is offered to young people and the courage they then go on to discuss difficult and yet vitally important topics in their schools. They open doors to further communication, and I have watched with gratitude as their work has been respectfully received by both students and staff at South Burlington High School (SBHS). I applaud Emily for empowering young people in this way. She’s an amazing person.”
SBHS students concur with Merrick’s assessment. Marissa Pelino, from the class of 2017, says, “Emily opened my eyes to the fact that making a difference is not a job that’s limited to adults and that sometimes it’s the youth who can be most powerful in initiating change. For this, I’m eternally grateful to her as it encourages me to stand up for my beliefs in all contexts.”
Janie Merrick, from the SBHS class of 2015, adds, “Being a Peer Advocate for Steps was an incredible experience. I’m so grateful for Emily’s hard work, empathy, and open-mindedness. The peer advocacy program is invaluable as it provides resources and information to high school students about safe and healthy relationships.”
As the end of October approaches, a month that is dedicated nationally to domestic violence awareness, Steps to End Domestic Violence holds their annual candlelight vigil and survivor speak-out, Thursday, October 27, 6 p.m. The vigil is held at Burlington City Hall, 149 Church Street, and progresses as a silent candlelit march to the First Unitarian Universalist Church.
As Susie Merrick puts it, “Every person deserves to have safe and healthy relationships in their lives.”