By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — United Way of South Central Illinois raised its thermometer again Thursday, signifying a specific community impact program that will be funded because of the investment made by donors, business and organizations that support the work of the organization.
The next community impact goal being met is that students can learn to identify sexual abuse. The United Way is able to impact the community by funding The Amy Center's "Body Boundaries" program. This program works by teaching children what abuse is, developing skills and empowering them to act if threatened of victimized. The "Body Boundaries" program is a comprehensive sexual abuse prevention program offered to preschool through eighth grade children in Clay, Clinton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Marion, Washington and Wayne counties. The curriculum is designed to teach children about patterns of abuse, how to avoid unwanted attention and touches, and to give practical instruction for those who are being victimized.
"The program is tailored to the age appropriateness of each grade level," said Cheryl McKay, an educator for The Amy Center. "The sixth grade program focuses more on Internet safety. The seventh- and -eighth grade programs are one day/one hour for each program, and the topics covered are confronting sexual harassment, the dangers of sexting and the 10 signs of relationship abuse." The program for pre-K through sixth grade is three days.
Earlier this year, Erin's Law was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. This law mandates schools educate children in pre-K through 12 grade on sexual abuse. No funds were released for the program and no time restrictions were placed on the law, according to The Amy Center's Executive Director Ladonna Richards.
"The only requirement is that it be taught at least once a year," she said.
"We are beginning to present our program in area high schools. We hope to do more presentations in the following years and expand our program to better suit the needs of high school students," McKay said. "Many parents fear we are a sex education program. They fear we will discuss the actual terms for private body parts. Neither of these things occur in our program. Parents are even welcome to come and observe our program."
United Way has used its thermometer in the past to measure how much money has been donated to the program. This year, the thermometer is raised to show the impact made with the dollars raised.
"The goal is not just to raise money in the community to disperse. The goal is to generate whatever resources are needed to make measurable progress and to move the needle on the communities' most pressing issue," said Lynn Hutchison, community resource director. "It is not how many individuals are provided for and served. It is not how many programs or partners that are united. While the former are both important, the most crucial parts of United Way's work are bottom line results, lives changed, communities strengthened and the futures that are shaped, therefore, the move towards community impact."