STERLING — Whiteside County soon could have another tool to keep the area safer, from violence and from bullying.
It just depends on the community's participation.
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois's Youth Wellness, Opportunity, and Resources for Key Services program already is established in Ogle, Lee and Carroll counties.
Kelsey Kant, prevention specialist for Lee County Youth WORKS, joined the program last year, a year after it was established in Lee and Ogle counties, because she wants to make a positive impact on her community and decrease stressors related to bullying and suicide, she said.
"If I can help the community, then I'm helping my children and the community they grow up in," Kant said.
Each Youth WORKS program is tailored to meet the needs of the community is serves. In Lee County, bullying and life skills are Kant's focus.
Whiteside County's needs are yet to be determined, said Kaitlyn Blackburn, its prevention specialist.
Before Blackburn can go into schools as Kant does, she first must establish the Whiteside County Area Project Board, which will determine its specific needs and set its focus.
For that, she needs committed community members to serve on the board.
A big part of violence prevention is teaching skills like healthy coping mechanisms, setting goals or teaching people to recognize the signs of a healthy relationship, to guide them toward becoming the best versions of themselves.
"When you hear violence prevention, you think we're going to stop people from harming other people, but there's so much more to it than that," Kant said.
In schools, she uses a curriculum that could take 10, 45-minutes sessions to get across to the students. Repetition is key, she said.
Part of the job also involves creating a culture of awareness and understanding, Kant said.
Older generations often tell Kant kids just need to "buck up" when they're being bullied, but it's important that they understand that, because of technology, children no longer can escape a bully just by running home.
Even when children remove themselves from social media and other messaging apps, they still find out because someone else will see and tell, Kant said.
"They don't have that safe space It's in their face 24/7."
Youth WORKS of Whiteside County needs community members and stakeholders to serve on the Area Project Board or the Community Committee.
Those interested can contact Kaitlyn Blackburn at Kaitlyn.Blackburn@LSSI.org or 815-284-7796, ext. 4169.
The board meets every 2 months and requires at least nine board members from at least six of the sectors listed below.
Members will address the violence-related problem youths encounter and decides which programs to implement.
The Community Committee meets every 3 months and assists the activities and programs implemented by the board while working with the Youth Committee.
Needed are people from:
As well as:
•Parents of middle school/junior high students, high school students, alternative high school students, and young adults
•Representatives from middle, high, college and alternative schools.
•Health care workers at hospitals, health departments, and federally qualified health centers.
•Human services providers of sexual assault prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and from youth-serving organizations.