Students conduct consent workshops

College students teach consent to students at Mt. Greylock Regional High School. Photo courtesy of Gabriella Kalas '16
College students teach consent to students at Mt. Greylock Regional High School. Photo courtesy of Gabriella Kalas ’16

This week, students conducted three days of consent workshops with juniors and seniors at Mount Greylock Regional High School.

Four members of the Sexual Wellness Advocacy at Greylock group worked with the 21 high school students on Mt. Greylock’s Peer Team, an elective class in which students are trained to mediate conflicts and stay informed  about issues that affect the student body, such as mental health and sexual assault.

In the workshops, which ran for 40 minutes each day during the Peer Team’s class periods on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, students from the College and Mt. Greylock discussed consent, issues relating to alcohol and the importance of communication.

The group is working with the support of the North Adams office of the Pittsfield-based Elizabeth Freeman Center (EFC), an organization that addresses domestic and sexual violence in Berkshire Country. EFC employee Nakeida Bethel-Smith will help connect Mt. Greylock students to resources at the Freeman Center. Since most high school faculty and staff are mandatory reporters, this will allow survivors who do not wish to report the incident to find support.

Gabriella Kallas ’16, who led the workshops, recruited 10 sophomores, juniors and seniors from the Rape and Sexual Assault Network (RASAN), Men for Consent and Women’s Collective to start Sexual Wellness Advocacy at Greylock over the summer. The group met weekly over the semester to create a curriculum for the workshops. They have also been working with Mt. Greylock Health and Wellness Educator Rachelle Smith.

The last time students from the College attempted to raise awareness about consent at Mt. Greylock during the 2004-2005 school year, RASAN led the program but was not equipped to deal with the number of cases that surfaced as a result. This time, Sexual Wellness Advocacy is hoping to mitigate the stress on workshop leaders by starting with a small group of students and then expanding the program, as well as with the support of the Freeman Center.

Though the group has started to explore possibilities for future involvement at Mt. Greylock, they want to hear the students’ recommendations before making concrete plans. “We want to see what they [the Peer Team] thinks is the best plan moving forward, since they know the student body a lot better than we do,” Kallas said.

Kallas hopes that their work will inspire the students to take further steps to help reduce assault and to support survivors at Mt. Greylock. In conjunction with the Peer Team, Kallas hopes to increase the program from a narrow selection of students to a larger effort that involves the entire student body. “In high schools, survivors aren’t getting a lot of support,” Kallas said. “Society doesn’t put an emphasis on teaching about consent.”

Paula Mejia ’17 is a member of Sexual Wellness Advocacy at Greylock who helped conduct the workshops, along with Kallas, Isabel Abraham-Raveson ’15 and Henry Bergman ’15.

She is also a member of RASAN and, like many students at the College and around the country, says she received poor sex education in her high school classes, which inspired her to work with the Sexual Wellness Advocacy at Greylock group. “Thinking back, I can’t believe these things, like consent, didn’t come up in sex ed,” Mejia said. “This is really a systemic issue.”