Since 1893, YWCA Omaha has been dedicated to helping empower women toward personal, social, and economic success. Through a variety of programs and services that include domestic violence advocacy, career services, counseling, preventive training education, and nonviolence programs, YWCA Omaha is committed to helping women and their families build lives of strength, growth, and stability.
Traditionally thought of as an organization dedicated to helping only women, YWCA’s comprehensive approach incorporates programs for men and children as well all meant to reinforce support to women. The organization’s wide-ranging, school-based youth educational and prevention program is one such program.
“Our ultimate goal is primary prevention,” Lynn Pollitt, director of client services and youth education and prevention said. “We’re trying to stop violence in whatever form it takes before it even happens and one of the most effective ways we have found to reach youth is through school-based programming.”
Working with school guidance counselors and an array of teachers at the elementary school to university level, Pollitt educates students through presentations on topics ranging from personal safety, domestic violence, bullying, stereotyping, dating violence, and more using age-appropriate curriculum and engaging activities. In some cases, YWCA presentations provide the initial information and serve as an introduction to various hard-to-talk-about topics, which often open the door to disclosure by students.
“For whatever reason, when it’s not your guidance counselor or teacher, and it’s an outside party who starts the conversation, there’s more openness and a willingness [from students] to disclose something personal and that doesn’t always happen if the conversation is initiated by the people you know at school,” Pollitt said.
During the 2009 – 2010 school year, including this summer, Pollitt estimates that she conducted as many as 300 classroom presentations reaching approximately 7,500 individuals. An amazing feat by anyone’s standards, but if that wasn’t enough, the YWCA also offers resources for youth outside of the school setting.
Children age 7 to 14 are able to participate in YWCA led domestic violence recovery classes and have the option to work with a child adolescent therapist for further intervention. In the end though, even services provided to adults through YWCA programs effect children in need of support says Dr. Ann Potter, YWCA chief program officer.
“One of the things that we all feel really passionate about is that anytime we’re intervening with an adult, we’re potentially intervening with a child as well.” Potter said. “Even if we never see that child, hopefully the interventions that we are doing with the adults that we see will have a positive impact on whatever children are in that person’s life. And in that way, we hope we are able to prevent the circle of violence from continuing, and always search for ways to offer early detection and early intervention.”
YWCA Omaha has extensive plans to expand its youth school-based educational and prevention programs and is continually adding to its adult services based on the evolving needs of the community. To learn more about YWCA visit http://www.ywcaomaha.org/ or download a brochure to learn more about YWCA programs supported by the annual fundraising drive, which is going on right now.