The stories below are about real kids in the SAVE programs but the names and faces are changed.
Tommy is not
only a first year SAVESNet member during
the 2011-12 school year, he was a self-confessed gang member who had relocated
from another state to Ohio just a few years ago. Tommy was quiet, didn't
participate much and made very little eye contact. He wore red every day of the
week and very seldom missed a SAVESNet meeting unless suspended or absent. In a
mentoring session, Tommy admitted to having been in a gang for as long as he
could remember. He also shared that he had failed at school so badly that even
his father discouraged him to continue. When asked about his out-of-school
activities, Tommy reflected on criminal activities, using drugs and alcohol, and
the lack of a supportive adult in his life. He lived with his father, and was
estranged from his mother and other siblings. The SAVESNet coordinator invested
time encouraging Tommy and building resilience strategies with him. As a part
of a special resilience series, guest speakers from Mothers
Overcoming Violence Everywhere was invited to present to the
SAVESNet members. The group shared their
stories and experience with gang-related violence, the drug game and even
death. Afterwards, Tommy stayed behind to talk with the guests from MOVE about
his past, his current life, and his very bleak future. By the next week, Tommy
had stepped up from being a silent member of SAVESNet, to participating in
daily meetings and community service activities. One day close to the end
of the school year, Tommy walked into the SAVESNet meeting wearing only white.
When complimented on his new change in color of clothing, Tommy shared with the
SAVESNet coordinator and members that he had decided to discontinue his gang affiliation
and activity and committed to living a peaceful life. In addition to
changing his choice in clothing color, Tommy took it a step further and turned
in some stolen property to prove to his probation officer that he was serious
about his life change. Tommy is committed to working hard to stay moving on the
right path. Upon leaving school for summer break, Tommy asked the SAVESNet
coordinator if he would be able to join SAVESNet again next year. The
coordinator responded, "Absolutely".
easily be categorized as a 'mean girl'. As sweet as her initial disposition was
to adults, she could say very cruel and mean things to her peers. She attended
SAVESNet regularly and participated in group discussions. However, her
responses were very negative and often hurtful to others involved. Dreama
reluctantly participated in a community service project making blankets
for patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital and traveled with the
coordinator and a group of other members to drop them off. She commented on how
she wanted a blanket for herself as no one had ever made anything for her.
During a time of mentoring one on one with Dreama, it was brought to the
SAVESNet coordinator's attention that Dreama was living with a close relative
since her mother had been incarcerated for several years and is not scheduled
for release anytime soon. She also shared that she is one of 15 children
fathered by the same man. Dreama was very defensive and guarded towards
everyone. She continued coming to SAVESNet and rarely missed meetings. Through
consistent leadership development and encouragement, Dreama began to embrace
the concepts taught through the Teen Outreach Program such as values and
community. As a senior, Dreama began to slowly mature into a peer mentor
and was much more pleasant towards everyone. By the end of the school year, she
shared how SAVESNet had helped her be more of a kind and positive person as
well as encouraged her to handle her issues with anger much better.
Students participating in the SAVESNet program created spoken word
pieces to bring awareness to issues that plague their communities and personal
lives. It often appeared that each time they re-wrote their pieces and shared
them with classmates healing took place. Often students had never spoken of the
horrific experiences they had witnessed or had lived through themselves. Spoken
work provided them a platform of sharing, to start the process of letting go of
the pain thus opening the door to forgiveness. After the period ended it was
not uncommon for a tearful student to remain in the Program Coordinators room
in search of help processing the wide range of emotions and memories that
sharing their experiences evoked. It was interesting that each time the
students revised their pieces they game closer to their truth and became less
of a victim but more of a champion over their experiences thus becoming
empowered. Simply, they started to turn their tragedy into triumph.
During sessions, before starting
the writing process, we covered how powerful words are and that we can speak
things into existence. So as students healed and became empowered they wrote
differently. For instance, one particular student started out writing “You
destroyed my life I will never love again" but by the time the final draft
was done she wrote “you tried to destroy my life but I am happy now. This is
just one example of how students took back their lives from the experiences
that held them hostage.
Additionally most of the
students had never spoken in front of a class before nor a large audience due
to a lack of confidence and self- esteem.
One student had to turn their back to the class to read their piece and
anther had a friend stand in front of them, hiding the first time they read.
However through the constant coaching and encouragement of the Program
Coordinator as well as a local spoken
word artist they were able to share their lives with an audience of a couple
hundred people at the SAVE Awards. Through these experiences these young
people learned that sometimes silence is betrayal and that their voices are
powerful and important and they are resilient beyond measure.
the SAVESNet program during the 2011-2012 school year. Although she was a good student academically
she had a serious attitude problem. She was very independent and did not like
anyone telling her what to do. She was always in a defense mode. After several
one on one mentoring sessions with the Program Coordinator she started to
realize that she had a problem with her temper and attitude. Donna had so many negative things going on
in her family and was used to being let down so often, she just developed an
attitude to shield herself. The
Coordinator encouraged her to try and make some changes by implementing the
strategies discussed about conflict resolution and communication in the program
lessons.. After being in the program for three months Donna began to make
changes for the better. She started coming to report to the Coordinator when
she made a good decision not to fight or argue with another student. Donna
began checking herself when she got out of hand because she really wanted to do
better. She successfully completed the program requirements and took on a
leadership role within the peer group promoting peace and nonviolence.
an active third year member of SAVESNet at South High School, a Senior and REAL
TALK author. She says that SAVESNet has been a very positive group to
be a part. Alexis shared that her anger and attitude used to keep her
suspended during her freshman and sophomore year. She admits that she
knew that she needed to make a change. Joining SAVESNet helped Alexis do
just that. She learned communication skills, goal setting and was able
to deal with conflict better. She also learned how to be a peacemaker in
her school. Alexis is very proud to be a SAVESNet member and looks
forward to more leadership opportunities as she continues to be a
positive role model for her peers. Alexis believes that change is
possible when you are willing to do what it takes to make the changes so
you can live a more meaningful peace-filled life. We are very proud of her and the progress she has
Aasia was a 15 year female that found herself spending most
of the first nine week grading period of ninth grade in the Assistant Principal’s office. Everyday there was conflict and drama with
fellow classmates. Being more concerned
with the negative attention she was receiving, her grades suffered. At the end of the first grading period Aasia
she had a 1.5 GAP including two F's.
Aasia's family knew about the SAVESNet program, so Aasia was
expected to participate plus her siblings were already members. This did not prevent Aasia however, from
getting mixed up with the wrong people. Although
she regularly attended SAVESNet meetings she was bringing her drama with her. Mr. Martin, the SAVESNet Coordinator, let her
know that this was not how SAVESNet members spent their time and energy. Aasia was then bothered by the fact that Mr.
Martin did not select her for the fall SAVESNet Leadership Development activity
because she did not have a 2.0 GPA and lacked the social maturity to
participate. She told Mr. Martin that
she was going to do better. Mr. Martin
told Aaisa that he is at the school everyday and that she could come talk to
him anytime she had a problem. Aasia
began to seek out Mr. Martin three to four times a week with particular issues
or just to talk. Mr. Martin discerned
quickly that Aasia was a young person that wanted attention. Mr. Martin checked
with her everyday to make sure she was doing her work and was handling conflict
in a positive manner. In addition Mr. Martin
began giving her more responsibility in SAVESNet which she accepted. At the end of the second
nine week grading period Assia had a 2.5 GPA and no F's. Trips to the Assistant Principal’s all but stopped
and she is now a regular participant in the SAVESNet community service project,
tutoring elementary school students.
Lynelle came to school, the first day of the
new year. She knew the school dress code
but wore a pair of flip flops her mother had bought for her anyway. During the school day, the teachers and
school administration, warned her that she was violating the dress code and to
not wear the flip flips again the next day.
Lynelle heard what they said but showed up the next day to school with
her flip flops. It seemed Lynelle was just being a rebellious teen. A more
stern warning followed from the school administration with an added threat of
suspension if she wore the flip flops again.
Lynelle got very anxious about the situation. Due to the trusting relationship the SAVESNet
Coordinator and Lynelle had created the prior school year, Mr. Martin when hearing
about Lynelle, approached her and got to the bottom of what was really
happening (and verified it with Lynelle's mother). The weekend before school started Lynelle and her mother
were home when gun shots rang out. Their
home was being riddle with bullets. In
the panic of the moment, Lynelle and her mother, grabbed what they could and
fled to a friend's house where they knew they could be safe. Lynelle had not grabbed any of her shoes for
school which was to begin in just a few days.
Her mother, with just the few dollars she had, bought Lynelle a pair of
flip flops until she could get the money to get Lynelle proper footwear.
After hearing the story, to ease Lynelle's embarrassment,
anxiety and anger, Mr. Martin and a few teachers chipped in the money to get
Lynelle a pair of proper shoes. Lynelle
avoided suspension and began to healing from the trauma of the violent
event. The SAVESNet program is there for students 100% of the time
and the students are 100% the focus. The
SAVESNet Coordinator is at the school full-time, to help in crisis as well as
assist in the longer-term healing and growing process when the challenges of
living in a poor and crime ridden neighborhood effect students education and
lives. To this day, Lynelle remains in
school, maintains a 3.8 GPA and is an active member of SAVESNet.
Derek was in 9th grade and already off to a bad start in high school. He had
allowed himself to fall into hanging out with a negative group of older
peers. Derek was asked to leave two SAVESNet meetings due to continuous
disruptions. Seeing potential in Derek the SAVESNet coordinator worked to engage Derek and soon had developed as a mentor for him. Instead of Derek just sitting in the SAVESNet meetings the coordinator made
sure he had something for Derek to do which made him participate and
stay involved. Derek showed steady improvement in his grades and behavior
while his participation in SAVESNet increased. His willingness to take
on new challenges and leadership roles had grown each nine weeks. Slowly
Derek started hanging out with more SAVESNet kids and less with the
negative group of peers he hung out with at the beginning of the school year. Derek eventualy was honored with the SAVESNet member of the nine weeks.
Monique's inconsistent participation in SAVESNet was a symptom of the
inconsistency in her life. An unstable living situation and
drug addicted father, Monique dealt with victimization issues that led
her to smoking and drinking. After a junior year marred with absences
and grade card with multiple F’s, she was no longer on track to graduate the following
year. Although she admitted she felt like giving up, she didn’t,
and took summer school course and credit recovery while working full
time to become a senior. She said " I kept thinking to myself
RESILIENCE Mr. Martin (SAVESNet Coordinator) always said have a positive
response to negative situation". This was something she had learned
while taking Resiliency Training through the SAVESNet program. On June 5,
2010 she graduated and will be enrolling in college in the fall.
Gloria was a middle school student with a huge personality and had a way of making you feel better just by offering her presence. She was a decent student and had relatively good attendance, but during SAVESNet meetings she got quickly offended by the slightest transgressions – even those unintended for her. During a meeting, Gloria had an enormous meltdown because she thought that another student was angry at her. It took quite a while for Gloria to express herself using “I messages.” She slowly began to listen to the student with whom she was having the altercation and moved towards a resolution. After months of feedback and support from her peers in the group, Gloria was able to do a better job expressing her emotions in a constructive way and deescalating her anger.
Antonio was a 14 year old freshman that had been labeled gifted and talented but worked well below his capabilities. Upon meeting him you realize that he lacked confidence and self-esteem. Seldom did he interact with other students. He cared little about his personal appearance and was unconcerned about handling his responsibilities as a student and SAVESNet member. After trying out and making the SAVESNet performance team, Antonio’s confidence grew, but his grades still suffered. The SAVESNet coordinator became a mentor that Antonio trusted and someone who consistently demanded more of him as a student and young man. Antonio became a committed SAVESNet member, his grades improved each grading period, teachers noticing his marked improvement. Antonio now interacts with many SAVESNet members daily, clearly feeling better about himself as a young man. He went on to win SAVESNet member of the Year, establishing himself as a future leader of SAVESNet and the school.
Mike was a middle school student who was very disruptive to the SAVESNet group. He would often leave in the middle of group without permission. He would bully other boys in the group and he and the girls in the group would “clash” daily. The SVESNEt Program Coordinator would meet with Mike privately and explain why his behavior was unacceptable. Mike would apologize and promise to behave during the next meeting. This pattern reoccurred until Mike was asked not to return to the group. During the course of time outside of the group, the other SAVESNet members were invited on a field trip. Mike asked the Coordinator if he could accompany the group on the field trip to which she replied that his inability or unwillingness to follow the rules would keep him from going on the trip but that she wanted him to return if he could behave and cooperate with his fellow SAVESNet members. By the end of the school year, Mike was a completely different student and SAVESNet member. When given responsibility, he handled tasks efficiently and pleasantly. He took great initiative in the group, accomplishing things that he sensed needed to be done. When the Coordinator saw him in the hallways between classes, he became quite animated and thrilled to share the happenings of his day. This was a complete turnaround from the child who barely spoke and never made eye contact unless he was menacing others.
Isaac was a very shy and quiet 6th grade student who turned red at the suggestion of being an actor in a conflict resolution-themed video for the SAVE Awards. He was no stranger to conflict. Not as tall as others his age, Isaac constantly fought with “short” jokes and felt that people were always judging him from the outside. Getting picked on at school and in his group was a normal experience for Isaac. Though he was not sure if he wanted anything to do with the SAVE Awards Youth Peacemakers Training Program, Isaac agreed to attend the Youth Peacemakers Training Day. The training is where Isaac learned the T.A.G. strategy and it gave him confidence to stand up for himself and tools to use in situations of conflict. Amazingly, the group advisor convinced Isaac that he would be awesome in the video performance and Isaac finally agreed to the role. Over the course of just five months, the entire group witnessed Isaac come to mature - from a quiet, timid, little boy to a strong, confident and outspoken young man. The quiet kid who used to be the target of insults after insults to the point of sadness and tears, had stopped letting his peers get the best of him and stood up for himself without fear. For every insult, it seemed Isaac had a positive remark to make that left his verbal attackers speechless. Isaac hopes that the video would help others who face problems learn that sometimes enemies can be made into friends. Isaac believed his SAVE Awards performance could help stop violence. He also wished his experience in the SAVE Awards never ended.
Sherri was a junior that has participated in SAVESNet for the past three years but has dealt with a family plagued by drug addiction most of her life. Sherri felt she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. Sherri had been taking care of her three younger siblings for several years by the time she reached ninth grade due to her mother’s drug addiction. The lack of stability at home showed with inconsistent grades, attendance and participation in SAVESNet. She wanted to be more involved in school activities and SAVESNet but trying to make sure food was in the house and homework was getting done, did not allow for these opportunities. Despite these obstacles, Sherri continued to come to SAVESNet and made friends she grew to trust. The Coordinator always let Sherri know when a resilience lesson was coming up or an inspirational speaker was on the calendar because she was always receptive to encouraging words. The Coordinator worked closely with the family to get Sherri to more activities. Although her grades are average with slightly improved attendance, they are better, and so is her spirit. Sherri is always thankful for the SAVESNet Coordinator’s support even though her struggles at home are not over.
Jacob was 11 and much taller and bigger than his classmates. He was very diligent about coming to the SAVESNet meetings, so the Coordinator got to know him very well. He was very loud and disruptive during meetings and because of this he was picked on a lot by other students. When he did not get his way he would lose his temper. After many lessons and discussions with the Coordinator and SAVESNet members about self discipline and respect, he began to make adjustments in his behavior. After several months he became one of the most improved students in the group. He proved that he was listening and applying the principles that he learned in SAVESNet. There were many times when he would say something inappropriate and he would quickly correct himself and say “that was rude wasn’t it” Then he would say” I apologize.” By the end of the school year he was very pleasant to be around.
New cell phone technology opened up a brand new world for Janae, an 8th grade student. She was able to text friends in and out of her school. It seemed to bridge a gap in Janae’s world, but also introduced her and other students at her school to and unwelcomed invitation to threats of fights from students in other schools. Texting only brought on drama for Janae as she and her friends got into deep trouble as insults and put-downs surged across the school. Word got around that anyone involved in the SAVE Awards Youth Peacemakers Training Program would not be able to participate if they were sending text threats. Janae had never been involved in the SAVE Awards, but decided to join the group instead of joining in with the wrong crowd. Her school’s SAVE Awards advisors talked about a project that would bring the students back together to focus on peace and Janae was excited about it. After a positive technical visit from the SAVE Awards Coordinator, Janae hyped up the group by shouting “I’m going to Hollywood!” , when she discovered their video idea would be accepted into the 2009 SAVE Awards. In addition to their video performance, Janae and her classmates held a mock “funeral” for put-downs, designed a school wall mural and created tactile posters that encouraged peace for their entire school to experience. Janae and her classmates also mentored younger students and led a Peace Celebration fully equipped with a steel drum player and a nonviolent skit performed by students. When asked about her experience with SAVE, Janae says that she believes SAVE helped her be a better person and realize that drama isn’t everything.