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OHS Gains New Teen HARRT Organization

Things look much different at Oakdale High School than they did 20 or 30 years ago. While many changes have occurred to the exterior of the campus as the community and campus have grown, something else has changed as well – the student body.

As a number of clubs may come or go to support the change of student interest, as well as current trends, HARRT (Healthy and Responsible Relationships Troop) is one which certainly has found its time.

HARRT as defined by its brochure is “a student organization dedicated to raising awareness about adolescent relationship abuse.”

First launched in 2015 at Enochs High School by Haven Women’s Center, the program now has high school campus clubs at multiple Modesto City campuses, as well as in Turlock and Patterson.

“I think it’s important to educate students on healthy relationships,” Farrah Porter, HARRT Lead and Haven Women’s Center staffer said. “What a healthy relationship looks like and what an unhealthy relationship looks like. Only because some students don’t know or they don’t have the capacity to compile all the characteristics that are in an unhealthy relationship.”

Porter shared those relationships can be female to female, female to male or male to male. In a day and time when students have so much access via smart phones and the World Wide Web, it’s important for them to understand healthy boundaries in any relationship, friendship or other.

“It’s geared to educate teens, so they can go educate one another,” Porter explained of the club, which will begin meeting weekly in September under the guidance of OHS teacher Joe Gilbert.

“Peer to peer education,” Porter continued. “Ideally we would provide them the instruction they need in the fall term and then in the spring term they would have the opportunity to campaign or work on PSA’s or whatever they are driven to do to bring awareness.”

The HARRT lead shared through the education portion of the club, students focus on healthy relationships through training and education. They are exposed to facts and tools to handle topics like Gas Lighting, dating, sexual interaction and being safe.

“There are so many outlets for information for kids, it’s important for them to be given the right information,” Porter shared, noting that the peer to peer leadership is critical as students communicate better with one another via word choice as well as tone.

She as well as other staff members provide the training and education to the group during their weekly two hour meetings after school. The students then choose the platform and how to communicate what they’ve learned to their peers.

“I think that the populations we’re working with definitely understand that it’s a male and a female problem,” she said. “It’s really them empowering each other and educating each other.”

New to the role as HARRT Lead earlier this year, Porter shared her enjoyment working with the teens and their capacity for being creative and informative on what some might deem as a difficult topic.

“What has me really impressed with them is they have the capacity, the ability and the willingness to want to continue to educate their own peers within community, their schools,” she said.

“I hope to see them love it as much as our other sites do and to see them build their own coalition her in Oakdale,” Porter continued. “To know how and why this program is important. It is such a good program that every high school in California should have it.”

Porter added that the support she’s received thus far from the Oakdale administration has been both welcome and encouraging.

“Working with youth is so amazing, it’s not always me educating them,” she admitted. “It’s also them educating me. There’s so much to learn from one another and I think if we just give each other the opportunity and respect each other we can gain so much.”