A group of smiling students kneel in a classroom holding pink and white spotted balloons.

It is a staggering fact that one in three girls between the ages of 16 and 24 will experience dating violence. At Genesis, we recognize the importance of educating teenagers about healthy relationships, particularly during a time in their lives when they may not be eager to discuss uncomfortable topics with their parents or teachers. This is where our STAR (Students Tackle Abusive Relationships) auxiliary comes into play.

Several years ago, a high school freshman made it her mission to reignite our STAR auxiliary at Genesis. The auxiliary offers a unique opportunity for high school students to develop their leadership skills, earn community service hours and learn more about the issue of domestic violence. What started as a small group of committed students has expanded into a robust program, with students from 17 local public and private high schools now involved in the effort.

Collectively, our STAR members are a beacon of light at our agency. They gather every month to volunteer with the children at our residential campus, running themselves ragged on the basketball court or playing bingo in our dining room. They adopt Genesis families through our holiday program and shop together to fulfill items on their Christmas wish lists. They organize donation drives, bake sales and fundraisers at their schools.

Beyond the fun volunteer activities, however, our STAR members have a dogged willingness to educate their peers about domestic violence and how it affects their generation. We aim to equip them with the tools they need to spot red flags and help a friend in need. As a result, they have identified creative ways to reach engage other students and have those tough conversations.

Many of our STAR members have worked with their respective schools to set up a Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week during the year. STAR members at Bishop Lynch organized fun theme days, where students wore their favorite sports jerseys to “team up” against dating violence and dressed up as their favorite music genres to “tune out” emotional abuse. STAR members at Ursuline Academy invited Genesis staff to speak to the upper school, made a short film and set up interactive opportunities for students to learn more about the issue. Others have published articles in their school newspapers and used social media as a platform to raise awareness. The list goes on and on.

Every day, we have the privilege of seeing these students working together to end domestic violence once and for all. They are empowering their peers to be change-makers in this world. Their impact is far greater than they will ever know.

If you are interested in joining STAR or learning more about the program, visit this page and follow along on Instagram at @genesisshelterstar.

Schools with current STAR representatives for the 2019-2020 school year:

  • Bishop Lynch High School
  • Cistercian Preparatory School
  • The Colony High School
  • Dallas International School
  • Episcopal School of Dallas
  • Greenhill School
  • Highland Park High School
  • The Hockaday School
  • Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas
  • Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet
  • Lake Highlands High School
  • Parish Episcopal School
  • Richardson High School
  • School for the Talented and Gifted
  • Shelton School
  • Ursuline Academy of Dallas
  • Woodrow Wilson High School

Written by Elizabeth Corley, director of community engagement at Genesis Women’s Shelter.