We all know what it's like to be a teenager. Whether you're living the high school life, are a few years removed, or can't believe your 20 year high school reunion is fast approaching, teenage hardship isn't something that's easily forgotten. A group of individuals in Fort Wayne joined together this year to offer local youth an outlet for their struggles, and to offer positive guidance through some of the toughest years of their lives.
RESPECT360 exists to encourage healthy self-respect and healthy respect of others in teenagers. The non-profit organization, which has been widely popular with area schools since its launch, is made up of school presenters who travel to high school and middle school health classes, talking to teens about respecting themselves and others in all situations.
The idea for RESPECT360 was formed based on a recognized need for schools to have free access to mental and emotional health presentations, and the schools responded. Since their launch this summer, they have been scheduled in all the public high schools in Fort Wayne, several private high schools, and began adding middle schools to their already solidly booked schedule.
They are comprehensive in their approach to helping teens, tackling subjects from self-esteem and respecting others to sexual education. RESPECT360 strays away from typical, health class sex ed, and instead focuses on the mental and emotional components of a physical relationship. Presenters give students a safe place to process the information they are learning and ask tough questions. In the future, they hope to branch out and have open, frank conversations about sexual violence, addiction, and suicide prevention.
In addition to providing a safe place for teens to learn about tough subject matter, RESPECT360 hopes to send the message home. "We recognized that we could teach this to teens, but the major influences in their lives, like their parents and teachers, may not be sending or know how to send similar messages," says Amy Hanna, RESPECT360's co-founder. With that in mind, they are offering monthly parent empowerment sessions for parents and teachers. For the adult sessions, there's also a lesson in recognizing the warning signs of things like suicide and eating disorders.
RESPECT360's presenters are only in each school for a short amount of time, so one of their goals is to connect students who need additional help to the appropriate organizations in the community. They seek to be a hub for the many organizations in Fort Wayne who don't have a presence in schools, but still do wonderful work for teens who need them. Additionally, they are creating a strong online presence in an effort to be a continual resource for parents, teachers, and teenagers.
When asked how we can be involved and help with RESPECT360's mission, Amy said their biggest need right now was financial. There are only 3 presenters currently on staff, and they were completely booked by the beginning of August. Financial contributions would help bring on more presenters, allowing them to book more schools and reach more teens. Donations can be made in check form to RESPECT360 at P.O. Box 309, Huntertown, IN 46748.
Fort Wayne's non-profits and charitable organizations have always been some of the greatest gems in the city, and RESPECT360 is no exception. If there's one thing everyone can get behind, it's investing in our youth.