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K-State Today

July 20, 2017

Johannes, Toews and Vennum receive grant to implement sexual risk avoidance program

Submitted by Chelsi Medved

In October 2016, the College of Human Ecology received a grant to develop, implement and evaluate the #RELATIONSHIPGOALS, or #RG, program, a sexual risk avoidance education program, to teach seventh- and ninth-grade students from a local school district how to refrain from nonmarital sexual activity while promoting behavioral health, as well as social and emotional well-being.

The grant, funded by the Administration for Children and Families, totals more than $400,000 per year for three years. Michelle Toews, associate dean for research and scholarship; Amber Vennum, associate professor of family studies and human services; and Elaine Johannes, associate professor of family studies and human services, received this grant in the hopes of spreading awareness about the importance of healthy relationships.

"We believe targeting this population is necessary because the teen birth rate is more than two times higher among culturally underrepresented youth, significantly higher among socioeconomically disadvantaged youth and higher among youth in Kansas compared to youth in the U.S. as a whole," Toews said. "We are proposing to serve this age group because 40 percent of middle schoolers have been on a date and nearly 25 percent of ninth-graders have had sex; thus, it is important to reach youth at younger ages."

The goal of the #RG program is to empower youth to make healthy decisions by teaching them the benefits associated with self-regulation, healthy relationships and goal setting, while also teaching them how to resist sexual coercion, dating violence and other risky behaviors.

Following the first semester of the program, preliminary results suggest the program is reaching its goal. Specifically, the students reported that they loved the program and shared that the most important thing they learned was how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships. They also said the program taught them skills they needed to develop healthy relationships, particularly effective communication skills, which they used to improve their relationships with their families as well.

The #RG program will resume in October when students are back in school. For more information on the program, contact Toews at mtoews@k-state.edu or Vennum at avennum@k-state.edu