From Connor Kirkpatrick, NYLC Youth Advisory Council member.
This past year, after becoming a Project Manager at the Advanced Leadership Academy through Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, I planned and implemented the Next Step Campaign: a campaign to end domestic violence within my home community in Denver, North Carolina by implementing service-learning projects and youth voice. With the help of NYLC Board Member and Director of Student Life at Lincoln Charter School Melissa Lasarsky and 24 student leaders, the campaign was a complete success through partnerships with the local Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
There were 3 parts to the Next Step Campaign:
- Stepping Up – Students were asked to step up for themselves and for domestic violence victims by learning about the issue and becoming Victim Advocates. This provess included a school-wide assembly attended by over 300 high school students where speakers from the local Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Rape Crisis Center came and spoke to the students about the dangers of relationship violence and what to do if you find yourself in a violent situation.
- Stepping Out – Students took action by participating in a service-learning project or by getting involved and donating their time or other assets. After learning photography techniques in art class, students created a photography exhibit that presented statistics about domestic violence. These photographs were paired with quotes from stories of survivors of domestic violence and hung as a display on a clothesline. This project was called The Clothesline Project. Other students organized a toy drive where families from all grades donated gently used toys to make care packages for the children of domestic violence victims. Over 45 care packages were made! Still, other students gave by giving their time in contacting businesses to sponsor the campaign. With their efforts and the generosity of Lincoln Charter School in matching all funds raised by the students, they raised over $6,000! Other students contributed through creating a social media campaign and video.
- Stepping Forward – The campaign ended in the first ever Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, co-hosted by the Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Lincoln Charter Schools. 55 people showed their support for the campaign by walking a mile in high heels. Together, they walked forward toward a better and brighter future for the community.
Over 45 care packages were created by high school students who organized a toy drive. Along with all the proceeds from Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, these care packages were donated to the Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The Future – There are plans to make the Next Step Campaign a tradition at Lincoln Charter School! There are many partnerships still unexplored and service learning opportunities that can be implemented. One project I would like to see happen is to see students translate literature on domestic violence for the Hispanic community.
Something I have learned from this project is that youth voice is a powerful force. I’m so thankful for the supportive administration and community members who believed in my passion and who helped make the campaign a reality. I hope my story can serve as a testament to others! Find your passion, and do something groundbreaking with it in your community.
More information and pictures featuring the Next Step Campaign are available on the Next Step Facebook Page.
Until we change the world again,
NYLC Youth Advisory Council Member