The Enterprise by Mina Corpuz
February 6, 2020

A roundtable gave students a chance to tell Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito ways the RESPECTfully campaign can reach out to teens.

BROCKTON — High school students shared ideas to spread messages encouraging healthy relationships through a statewide campaign during a Thursday roundtable discussion with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

She and advocates against sexual assault and domestic violence are hoping to integrate ideas from students into the RESPECTfully campaign, a public awareness effort to help middle and high school students navigate relationships in a safe way.

“Your ability to come to this table and speak open, honestly, and respectfully is exactly what this effort is about,” Polito told the students. “You got it and you are prepared.”

The campaign is about preparing students for the future and empowering them. Social and emotional health are just as important as other skills they develop, she said.

“The beautiful thing about this is that it’s down to earth,” Mynaisha Harris, a senior, said about the RESPECTfully campaign.

The 19 juniors and seniors who were part of the roundtable suggested ways for the campaign to reach out to teens.

Sharing real stories that seem genuine could help make the messages resonate, the students said.

A member of the younger generation should be featured in the videos and those videos could be in different languages, they said.

RESPECTfully has shared short videos and messages about topics including jealousy in relationships, drama and name calling on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

The messages were formed through input from students around the state.

Polito announced during the roundtable that the next phase will get getting the campaign on TikTok, a video sharing platform that hosts minute-long clips.

Senior Olivia Cutts suggested creating a song for the campaign that teens will want to share.

Polito said after the event that several students volunteered to help the campaign share its messages on social media.

Several students also spoke positively about what they have learned in their health classes and how their teachers, Kim Saravia and Cheryll Leach, have helped them feel comfortable talking about healthy relationships.

At the middle school level, the RESPECTfully campaign will send Valentine’s Day cards with positive messages to students across the state. The goal is to start sharing messages about healthy relationships earlier to help prepare students for high school and beyond, Polito said.

The campaign stems from work of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which Polito chairs.

RESPECTfully is the first public awareness campaign to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence in the state in nearly 20 years.

“We can’t expect that people automatically know how to do this, so we need to talk about it,” Debra Robbin, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., said about healthy relationships.