FARMINGTON — More than 300 narrow, handmade, cloth flags now line the hall connecting Mt. Blue High School to Foster Regional Tech Center.
Some simply state a word or two of hope or respect while others carry daunting statistics such as how one in three teens is dealing with an unhealthy relationship.
During last month’s recognition of teen dating awareness, Kirsten Plummer, school-based advocate from Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services, met with students throughout the high scho0ol to share information and create discussions on healthy versus unhealthy relationships, statistics and violence in relationships.
Some students responded by using their creativity and artistry to create the colorful banners. Some even sought more information through Internet research.
“I couldn’t believe how much (unhealthy relationships) there is. I looked up more facts and found information to make people more aware,” senior Taryn Kennedy said.
Creating their own dream flags made us “feel we have a say,” and hopefully “will make people feel they are not alone … those in bad relationships are not alone,” added senior Jessica Baker.
“Heightened awareness was the goal,” said health teacher Arvid Cullenberg, whose class participated. “Most are not aware how (an unhealthy relationship) snowballs and overtakes lives, making one afraid to leave it. We’re hoping they’ll recognize when it happens to them.”
Some students approach teachers to talk but within the guise of relating a friend who’s experiencing an issue, he said.
“The topic affects most of the kids — either personally or with friends and family. It’s something they really identify with,” Plummer said. “There wasn’t a student in any class that didn’t get involved.”
The modern use of technology creates an additional invasiveness to their lives. With cell phones, text messaging and access to the Internet, someone in an unhealthy relationship is readily available, she said.
No one needs to know where another is every minute. Calling every 10 minutes becomes abusive with teens kept up at night, afraid to not answer the call, unable to sleep and coming to school tired the next day, she said.
Both students and teachers want the dream flags — dreams of what they want for healthy relationships — to stay hung along the full-length windows. The students have been super respectful of the flags, Plummer said.
“We hope the flags help people have the confidence to speak,” senior Alissa Miller said.
The students took pride and ownership in creating their flags, early childhood teacher Leilani Gordon said.
“It was across the board. Every group of students was represented (by those making flags), not just one group. It all relates. Every student is touched by domestic violence,” she said.