NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Next month, Albert Leonard Middle School will become the home of a Rising STAR club, set up at the school with Hope's Door to encourage healthy dating relationships.
Organized by faculty advisor Cory Binenbaum, a health teacher, the group's first meeting will be Feb. 13.
Hope's Door came to the school recently to give the eighth graders guidance and advice on what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy. Student Quincy Simmons said it was helpful learning the lesson, "so you know how to handle yourself in a relationship."
The organization guides a club at New Rochelle High School called STAR for Students Talking About Relationships. Rising STAR is the name of their middle school groups. The one at ALMS will be the first middle school group for Hope's Door in Westchester County.
"When we talk about healthy relationships, we're talking about people who respect each other and see each other as equals," Shannon Sullivan, a Youth Educator from Hope's Door, told the students in a recent class.
Binenbaum said the students are benefiting from the program.
"The students are getting crucial information about healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships from the Hope's Door program," Binenbaum said. "I'm hopeful that when they are ready to date, they will use the knowledge they have gained to help them recognize what a safe and healthy relationship is supposed to look like. I was very pleased with the students' engagement and their very mature and healthy discussions during the classes."
Hope's Door led the lessons recently in all of the ALMS eighth-grade health classes. In one exercise, Sullivan played the part of a friend in a relationship with a guy who has become jealous and manipulative. She made excuses for him and expressed reluctance to seek an adult's help alone, while the students pressed on in encouraging her to see the signs.
"Having a friend who will go with them and support them is really important," she said when the exercise was over.
Student Kira Ortega said the session was valuable.
"It's important because we're going to grow up and we're going to be in relationships, and we should know if the person is healthy to be in a relationship with," she said.