Domestic violence and sexual abuse can be heavy topics for younger kids to address. But Colony Middle School health teacher Amber Bright wants her students to feel comfortable talking about the issues.

“We teach kid about fire drills and earthquake drills and intruder drills, but do we really teach them the necessary skills to escape the trauma they’re experiencing in their lives?” she said. “Especially with some young kids, they’re growing up and not knowing any different.”

She makes her classroom a safe place where students can share anything. Their personal stories are heartbreaking.

“I see it a lot more often than I should,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Bright’s class works with No More Mat-Su, a campaign that’s part of a national, youth-led effort to increase awareness. She gets her students engaged in how they can stop abuse or prevent it from happening.

“I think it’s important that middle schools are learning this because it can happen to anyone at any time. No age is safe,” said seventh grader Wyona Skaw. “Sometimes your friends are going through it and you don’t even know. It’s important to learn the flags and learn what to do if you’re in that situation.”

The Alaska Safe Children’s Act went into effect in 2017. It requires schools to have training and education on sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Students are taught about Bree Moore, who was shot and killed by her boyfriend in June 2014. Under Bree’s Law, they learn the signs of dating violence and abuse.

“Sure, it’s a touchy subject and maybe people feel very uncomfortable learning about it, but you should still learn because so many people are getting hurt and so many people are dying like Bree. Sometimes it’s too late to save them,” said 13-year-old Skaw.

While it’s a serious subject, the students are coming up with fun ways to get more of their peers involved.

At lunch time on Friday, members of the Honor Society and their friends held a flash mob and performed the iconic dance from the movie "Napoleon Dynamite."

It was an effort to promote an upcoming community event called Rock the Resilience.

“It’s important we bring awareness to teenagers and to get them to attend events like this, because as we bring awareness to the issues we bring prevention,” Bright said.

Students want to spread the message that hope and help are out there, and kids dealing with abuse or violence are not alone.

Rock the Resilience is Monday, Feb. 25 at the Glenn Massay Theater from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be student group performances and prize giveaways. The event is free and open to the public.

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