Merced County young adults are underserved. Our county has a large proportion of mothers ages 15-19, making up 9% of births in 2013 according to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. Along with an increasing nationwide visibility in teen dating violence, there’s no denying that there is a rising need to provide comprehensive sexual education and healthy relationship skills. Hoping to nurture the growth and well-being of Merced’s adolescents, Valley Crisis Center and the Public Health Institute have partnered to expand services beyond intervention and into education and prevention.
The California Adolescent Health Collaborative (a program of the Public Health Institute) and Valley Crisis Center staff provide workshops to Merced County’s opportunity youth — formerly known as “at-risk” youth — between the ages of 16 and 24. These workshops are meant to strengthen communication, self-reflection, and relationship skills, based on the fundamental principle that healthy behaviors can be learned and strengthened through practice. Valley Crisis Center Health Educators have already graduated two cohorts of students through Merced County Office of Education’s Empower U program since starting in August, and will begin working with incarcerated youth at Valley Community School at the start of the next calendar year. Matriculated students receive a stipend and a Chromebook upon completion of the healthy relationships program and a web design course. Healthy Relationships and Economic Pathways is a new program and has already seen some success:
“One of our students works at a not-for-profit charity organization, where he stocks donations and takes inventory of donated items. On his first official day of work, he was in the supply room with two co-workers who made no attempt to hide that they were stealing items to sell for their own profit, explicitly counting up how much money they would make and how they’d use the money towards a new car and Vicodin pills. When they were unable to close their boxes and bags, they asked our student if he’d be willing to help them close some boxes and bags. Our student felt uncomfortable with the request, and feeling like he wasn’t able to say no without consequence, remembered and utilized the delay response, telling his co-workers that he had something to attend to at the front of the store. He eventually told his supervisor and prevented the store from any further losses. Our student found it to be a funny coincidence that shortly after attending our classes, he was able to put into practice something he had learned to get out of a situation he was uncomfortable with.” ~José Martínez, former Healthy Relationships Educator
Valley Crisis Center seeks to prevent violence by advocating for positive changes through community education. Our hope is to serve Merced County adolescents, prepare them to identify and navigate unhealthy relationships, and to nurture their growth into healthy relationships.