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Published: Wednesday, 10/8/2008

Child abuse is focus of PEACE effort at Sylvania high schools

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Among the Sylvania students in PEACE are, from left junior Breanna Randolph, junior Meredith Wagner, junior Nathan Watt, sophomore Ryan Darah, and senior David Navarre. Among the Sylvania students in PEACE are, from left junior Breanna Randolph, junior Meredith Wagner, junior Nathan Watt, sophomore Ryan Darah, and senior David Navarre.
JETTA FRASER / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

About a dozen students from each of Sylvania's two high schools came together two years ago to see what they might do to have an impact on child abuse.

The group, known as PEACE, has grown to a membership of about 2,000 across Ohio with an active core of about 100 centered at the two local schools.

Bill Geha, a drug counselor in the Sylvania system, helped the youngsters form the group and to some extent continues to offer advice, "but it's student led. The kids do everything," he said.

In dealing with children who were abusing drugs, he said he found a connection indicating many of them suffered from some form of abuse themselves.

He added that "adults in abusive relationships were more likely to abuse kids."

There seemed to be a circular pattern which included sexual, physical, and verbal abuse and often led to a reliance on alcohol and other drugs.

Mr. Geha said he proposed to the high school students that they form an organization that would bring attention to child abuse.

The high school students took on that challenge, and have broadened it.

Breanna Randolph, a Northview junior, said the effort includes fostering healthy relationships.

David Navarre, a senior at the high school, said the group is discussing ways to continue to "get the message out there" that healthy relationships are the basis of a better life.

He noted that the group has developed a slide show and a video presentation which have been shown to various groups.

The group also is developing a card that can be handed out at gatherings which will have phone numbers for people needing help.

Mr. Geha said the presentations from Sylvania students have been powerful and well received by other groups, including out-of-town drug conferences.

He added it's important to provide areas of help for troubled people, or those who are aware of problems in other relationships.

David Watt, a junior, said he enjoyed helping in a presentation made earlier this year in Cincinnati, and went on to help with another workshop there.

Sophomore Ryan Darah said he joined the group in part because his older brother was one of its founding members.

He added, however, that the purpose is important to him and he looks forward to working in the group for the rest of his years in high school.

Mr. Geha said some of the early success for the program is that most of the students who are involved aren't afraid to speak in front of others their age.

Although it may be difficult for some, peer-to-peer discussions often have the most value, he said.

Meredith Wagner, a junior, said she joined the group "because I want to be one of the people who can help stop the problem."

The counselor said the group at Southview High School is being reconstituted because most of the key members graduated last year.

One of his rewards, Mr. Geha said, is that he can be involved with high school students who don't "get complacent and say, 'It's not my problem.'•"

"If you give kids a task, if you challenge them, they go way beyond what they think they can do," he said.



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