Popping balloons isn’t allowed in most classrooms, let alone encouraged. But in schools and youth centers across Virginia, teens are asked to recover messages hidden in balloons that prompt them to share something personal with their peers.
This unusual icebreaker is one of many activities built into a teen violence prevention program designed by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance Visit disclaimer page . The program, called “DO YOU: Building Youth Resilience Through Creative Expression,” bolsters young people’s empathy, sense of fairness, and personal values to present “compassion as an antidote to violence,” says Communications Director Kate McCord.
DO YOU facilitators meet with young people over the course of 10 sessions, during which they discuss topics such as healthy sexuality and media portrayals of sex and relationships. Participants, who range in age from 13 to 16, also create their own personalized magazines to showcase their cultural backgrounds and express their goals for the course. Completing this exercise gives participants a creative way to learn more about themselves and to value the identities and experiences of their peers, McCord says.
The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance is a grantee of the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s (FYSB) Family Violence Prevention and Services Program. Among its many responsibilities, the Alliance promotes collaborations that provide more effective services to victims of family, domestic, and dating violence and their children.
FYSB funds support the training of DO YOU facilitators and the implementation of community projects that youth can join at the end of the course. FYSB also supported the initial development of the DO YOU curriculum, a process that included an extensive literature review and soliciting expertise from a 30-plus member advisory committee and feedback from over 100 Virginia teens.
DO YOU was pilot tested in 2013, and showed positive changes in participants’ ability to determine what is important to them, have a greater sense of empathy, and model fairness and equality. According to a document published by the Alliance Visit disclaimer page (PDF, 338KB), the program continues to be evaluated by teens, facilitators, and advisory committee members to measure its effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.