The 417Squad is Tackling Violence and Drugs in Springfield
April 1, 2015
The Community Partnership of the Ozarks has helped organize a group of Springfield high school students called 417SQUAD (Students Questioning Using and Abusing Drugs) who want to make a difference in their world.
This group formed as a prevention coalition in the 2013-2014 school year and they meet monthly as a team of 12-15 students, discussing issues that their peers face in an attempt to provide solutions in various ways, such as advocating for positive alternative activities and sharing information pertinent to their age group.
In addition to providing prevention strategies to their peers, 417SQUAD provides representation on the Community Partnership’s Fighting Back Coalition, which consists of leadership from all of the Greene County prevention coalitions. They provide a valuable voice in providing a youth’s perspective on prevention strategies relevant to their peers. They are also able to share ideas and receive support from the community for their efforts.
During this school year, the 417SQUAD learned that 1 in 3 teens experience dating abuse, including physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse/manipulation, and that 67% of teens never tell anyone about the abuse. The team became passionate about sharing this information because they felt that if more people realized how prevalent the issue was, they could help make it less taboo to discuss the topic and/or seek help.
Taking action, they partnered with the Violence Free Families Coalition (VFF) to help promote an awareness campaign about this issue. VFF had already placed ads to educate teens on the topic at the Battlefield Mall, a local hotspot for adolescents to hang out with friends.
To add to the campaign, the teens scripted, filmed, and edited a public service announcement (PSA) depicting a scene of teen dating abuse and offering resources for help, which will air on school TVs and various websites. They also applied for and received grant funding to purchase movie theater ads, which will air during this summer’s major blockbuster movies that teens will most likely go to see. To spark conversation, the teens also developed a hashtag (#MakeItStop417) to use on social media to spread awareness about the campaign website (makeitstop417.org).
Prior to this teen dating abuse campaign, a member of the 417SQUAD was featured in a suicide prevention PSA campaign throughout Springfield and the surrounding area. 417SQUAD members also helped develop the campaign and its message, which mainly targeted youth and urged individuals to talk to someone they know who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, as this has shown to reduce the likelihood of a suicide attempt.
There have been many people impacted by this campaign and at least one life saved when a local teen, after seeing the PSA, talked to a friend who was thinking about suicide.
To further educate themselves, 417SQUAD traveled to Jefferson City in March to attend the ACT Missouri Speak Hard conference. This conference is intended solely for youth from across the state to gather and learn about drug and violence prevention strategies as well as to network with their peers in Missouri. Six high school students from Springfield attended the conference and reported that they learned a great deal of information and are excited to implement new ideas here in Springfield!
As you can see, these youths took initiative to create change. By encouraging children throughout Missouri to speak up, we can promote lasting change.
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