A Voice for Change

“I couldn’t get this one person in jail, but I can help teach others what to be on the lookout for in their own lives.”

Eighteen-year-old Emma says a few years ago, she and some of her friends were victims of abuse. Sadly, they felt like they had nowhere to turn for help.

“We took the case to court and it never went anywhere,” said Emma.  

To empower herself, Emma joined the Youth Community Educator Program (YCEP) through Project PAVE in Denver. YCEP is a diverse group of young men and women who talk to peers, teachers and community groups about important topics such as healthy relationships, different types of abuse, gender roles and barriers to breaking up. 

“This group provides me with an opportunity to teach women and men how to take a stand,” said Emma.

The YCEP group aligns with Project PAVE’s mission of empowering youth to end the cycle of relationship violence through intervention, advocacy, education and youth leadership.

“The training YCEP offers helps to create important conversations in our communities and in our members’ own lives,” said Derek McCoy, YCEP coordinator.

“I didn’t know how to talk about gender stereotypes before I joined YCEP,” said 18-year-old Mykaela, a member from DSST Green Valley Ranch High School. “I’ve become more comfortable with myself, and just knowing how to have these conversations has helped a lot.”

YCEP members worked to expand the conversation around relationship violence on social media by taking part in the #voiceshavepower campaign. For every message of hope, Verizon donated $3 to various domestic violence organizations across the country. Project PAVE was one of six domestic violence groups across the country to receive a $20,000 grant. 

Having conversations about domestic and relationship violence in social or public spheres is important to this youth group.

“We need to stop making it taboo to talk about these issues,” said Kassie, an 18-year-old YCEP member from the Denver School of the Arts. “These are important topics and we need to try and find a solution.”

A goal each of these young leaders hopes to reach both inside and outside of YECP.   

“Being able to build yourself up from something like I experienced is so powerful,” said Emma.

Meagan Dorsch is a public relations manager with Verizon Wireless. Follow her on Twitter at: @VZWMeagan.