TRIMONT - A group of Martin County West junior high students hopes to help prevent child abuse as part of its mission for the Yellow Ribbon suicide awareness and prevention program.
"Martin County West has had a Yellow Ribbon program for about 10 years," said adviser Linda Goraczkowski. "But it's the helping nature of the Yellow Ribbon program, and April is child abuse prevention month."
The seventh- and eighth-grade students realize there are ties between child abuse and suicide attempts later in life.
"Child abuse situations can lead to depression, and that's a big factor for suicide," said student Erin Swanson.
In their attempts to speak out, the Yellow Ribbon group is taking a new approach to make people listen.
"We have recorded some ads for the local radio station [KSUM-AM and KFMC-FM]," Goraczkowski said. "We paid for the ads with a grant and the station was willing to match what we were able to pay. The ads will be airing for the month of April."
For some students, the message for child abuse awareness and suicide prevention is simple.
"We're just wanting people to know that they're not alone," said Natalie Lawrence.
Goraczkowski reported that in 2011 there were 251 reports of child abuse in Martin and Faribault counties that involved 374 children. Of those, 61.8 percent were neglect, 33.5 were physical abuse and 11.6 percent involved sexual abuse.
"These numbers add up to more than 100 percent because there was more than one type of abuse going on in some of these cases," she said.
Along with learning statistics and researching websites, some students examine how they can positively affect the lives of the younger children they know.
"When I'm baby-sitting, I spend as much time as I can with the kids, instead of my cell phone," Swanson said.
"I know a woman who has a newborn and other young children," added Nicole Scherer. "I spend some time with them, and just listen to what they have to say. They have a lot they want to say."
The group also recommends hotlines, such as 1-800-CHILDREN, or websites such as crisis.org
"But if there's a child in immediate danger?" prompts Goraczkowski.
"Call 9-1-1," the students answer back.
While this is the first time the Trimont group has concentrated on April as child abuse prevention month, the Yellow Ribbon group offers another activity called "Soles for Souls," when it collects shoes that end up being shipped around the world.
"This year, we had 124.5 pairs of shoes," Goraczkowski said, and everyone giggled about the 0.5 portion.
The group also participates in local parades, and offers the positive daily quotes heard on the daily announcements. Members also volunteer and donate to other programs and, most importantly, spend time with children or peers they believe need their help.
Several students admit they joined the group after learning about a peer or other people in the community who committed suicide or attempted it.
"It makes you think if you could've done something for them," Swanson said. "If you could've helped save them."
On the Web:
Crisis Connection: www.crisis.org
Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota: www.preventchildabusemn.org
National Child Abuse Prevention Month: www.childwelfare.gov