TELLURIDE – For three years, the San Miguel Resource Center’s Prevention Education Specialist Kara Johnson has provided lessons in area schools, lessons that go beyond traditional reading, writing and arithmetic. Johnson teaches life lessons, related to such subjects as confidence, assertiveness, and preventing things like bullying and sexual assault.
Last week, Johnson accepted Rocky Mountain PBS’s Be More award, at the organization’s annual luncheon and awards ceremony in Denver. Johnson was one of four Colorado citizens to receive the award, which honored those providing innovative leadership in the realm of women and girls’ wellbeing.
It’s a curriculum Johnson has worked long and hard to create through her last three years with SMRC, and she is beginning to see the results – not just among her students, but on a larger scale as well.
While it was an honor to receive the award, which was announced in January, Johnson says that what has been more fulfilling is seeing how the recognition gained through the award can strengthen SMRC’s education and prevention program.
“My hope is that it will bring more awareness about and the value of prevention education, especially in the school setting,” Johnson says, explaining that the SMRC programming focuses on strengthening children’s social and emotional skills. “These are really important life skills that all kids need, and will use throughout their lives.”
Working with students from preschool through high school, Johnson broaches subjects many parents and teachers don’t know how to address. Sexual abuse is a more common occurance than many would like to believe, with one in three girls and one in six boys becoming the victim of sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18. But sexual abuse is something that is preventable, and Johnson’s message focuses on educating children and their parents about ways in which they can prevent abuse.
Through this open and honest dialog, Johnson also hopes to eliminate some of the shame that surrounds the topic.
But Johnson’s curriculum goes farther than most traditional sexual abuse prevention programs in that it looks at the issue holistically, from both the individual as well as the societal standpoint. Some of her lessons examine gender inequality in our society, and teaches young people how to be mindful consumers of media and conscious of the many negative gender stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media.
Her programs for older ages also address issues like dating and how to build healthy relationships. Curriculum for younger students can focus on issues like building confidence and assertiveness and how to respond to bullying.
The SMRC’s Co-Executive Director Angela Goforth says that it was this multi-dimensional approach to prevention education that made Johnson the perfect candidate for the Be More award. Prevention education is a huge part of the SMRC mission, and having a staff member recognized for her efforts in this arena speaks to the strength of this growing program, Goforth says.
“We’re really seeing how beneficial this kind of long-term, comprehensive program is,” she says of Johnson’s programs, which are in all area schools as much as once a week. “This has given Kara the opportunity to know almost every kid in our service area, and see them grow and change, and also identify any possible red flags.”
In this school year alone, which is the first year the SMRC program has been introduced at Norwood schools and at the Telluride Mountain School, Johnson will provide over 400 lessons. What’s more, Johnson will tailor those lessons to each specific class and age group, focusing sessions on any specifics that group may need to address.
The SMRC recognizes national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in May, in an effort to inspire community members to commit to doing their part to end sexual abuse and violence.
To commemorate SAAM, the SMRC will host a screening of “Invisible War,” a film that looks at sexual assault within the military. The film will be shown at Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library on Tuesday, May 14 at 6 p.m.