Thursday March 14, 2013
From the moment Brittany Manos started her internship at Women Helping Battered Women (WHBW) in early February, she knew her time there would be valued and valuable.
“Right away Emily [DeWitt, WHBW Outreach Coordinator] told me, ‘February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month,’ and I asked, ‘What do you need me to do?’” recalled Ms. Manos, a Big Picture South Burlington junior. “I got my resources, and my work basically grew from there.”
Ms. Manos’ work included organizing a Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week at South Burlington High School (SBHS), with an information table in the SBHS lobby and an invitation to SBHS and Big Picture South Burlington students and staff to wear orange to take a stand against dating violence. The impact of Ms. Manos’ project grew: the SBHS boys’ ice hockey team sported orange laces and orange tape at their February 11 game, and Ms. Manos was invited to speak about her initiative at the SBHS annual PACT Dialogue Night, resulting in one attendee stating, “Thank you for offering information on this important topic.”
“My goal was to have the month be a learning experience for everyone,” Ms. Manos reflected. “Teen dating violence is often overlooked. I overlooked it, quite frankly; I didn’t think there was a problem in my age group. I also didn’t think there were any forms of abuse except physical abuse, but there are many other forms like emotional abuse.”
“Unhealthy relationships can start in early adolescence,” continued Ms. Manos. “Teen dating violence can start in seventh grade. I hope this month brings that kind of awareness to people’s attention.”
Ms. Manos gives Big Picture educator Christine Lundie credit for helping her initially connect to Women Helping Battered Women. As a high school program based on student-driven, real-world interests and passions, Big Picture has an extensive internship program. “We talked about what I’m good at,” Ms. Manos recalled, “and Ms. Lundie said, ‘Helping people.’ I agreed, and so we investigated organizations where I could intern. When I met Emily at WHBW, I knew she was absolutely awesome. The whole staff there is fantastic. I’m proud to be part of their work.”
On behalf of WHBW, Ms. DeWitt offered gratitude for this teen leader’s role: “Brittany’s work has been extremely essential in our work to raise awareness of teen dating violence. Her enthusiasm and dedication ensures that this topic will not go unnoticed in the South Burlington community.”
The next step for Ms. Manos is to join the Women Helping Battered Women Teen Peer Advocacy Program. Teen Peers are trained to be a safe haven for students seeking support from a peer about relationships and other issues that impact them. “I want my peers to know that I will never judge them or tell them what to do. My message is, ‘You’re not alone in this,’” she explained, adding that trained student volunteers are well supported by school guidance staff and staff at Women Helping Battered Women to get the guidance they need as well.
When asked what motivates her to help others, Ms. Manos named her mother, who works in human services, as one reason: “I basically got raised around social work and helping; it came naturally. My mom and I have bonded over social work, and I’ve learned a lot from her. I hope I’m always going to use the skill of helping others in my life – it’s just who I am.”
For further information on Women Helping Battered Women, please contact Emily DeWitt at 658-3131, ext 1076, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: Susie Merrick, Contributor