A new program piloted by Boys and Girls Club of Airdrie (BGCA) is intended to educate young people about healthy relationships.
According to Cheryl Cresine, manager of youth services, BGCA is one of four clubs in Alberta selected by Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada to pilot Respect2Connect, a teen dating violence prevention program for ages 12 to 24.
“It’s really focused on what healthy relationships are,” Cresine said. “At the end of the program, we want those youth…to be able to explain what a healthy relationship looks like [and] recognize diverse views and perspectives on relationships. We want them to identify the strengths they bring to their relationships, what personal barriers are and what they mean to them, and be able to communicate their needs safely.”
The program will cover topics including healthy boundaries, consent, communication and safety. Addressing these topics is important, Cresine said, because raising teens and young adults with an understanding of safe and healthy relationships creates a lasting impact as they carry those lessons for the rest of their lives.
“Teens are getting into relationships,” she said. “They’re learning about themselves, they’re learning about what they’re okay with and what they’re not okay with. To me, this program is a really good tool to teach those kids [who] maybe haven’t seen modeling of a healthy relationship for whatever reason.”
Respect2Connect will be a 12-week program, meeting once a week for approximately 90 minutes at BGCA’s centre at 200 East Lake Cres. Due to the sensitive material covered in the course, it is not a drop-in program, Cresine said, and participants must register ahead of time.
Anyone interested in enrolling or getting more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org
BGCA was in the early stages of rolling out the program, Cresine said, but was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The group hopes to begin the program in the fall, so long as it is safe to gather.
“We’re really excited to roll this program out once we’re able to fully roll it out,” Cresine said. “It’s very important, because teen dating violence is a real thing.”
In the meantime, BGCA is offering a virtual taste of the program through online videos briefly touching on the topics that will be covered in Respect2Connect.
While the success of the pilot program in Airdrie will play into the wider roll out of Respect2Connect to other clubs, Cresine said BGCA doesn’t feel any pressure.
“Any new program we can bring, not only to our club but to the community of Airdrie, we always kind of rise up to the challenge,” she said.