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River Dell Freshmen Complete Dating Abuse Curriculum

Allison Bressler leads the PowerBack program at River Dell High School. Photo Credit: Allison Bressler
Allison Bressler, left, and Gloria Sgrizzi. Photo Credit: Submit

ORADELL, N.J. — Freshmen at River Dell High School are the first in New Jersey to have completed a dating abuse curriculum.

The 3-day PowerBack program is the brain child of Gloria Sgrizzi and Allison Bressler, of Oradell.

They are the co-directors of A Partnership For Change, a nonprofit organization is dedicated to ending family abuse and intimate partner violence.

 “These students will educate the greater student body by engaging other students in a creative way and providing them with important information on dating abuse and about healthy relationships, as well," Bressler said.

"The ultimate goal is to stop dating violence before it starts."

While there are other 8-12 day curriculums, River Dell is the first school district to request a curriculum that addresses its unique needs... and then adopt it into the health curriculum, Bressler said.

PowerBack teaches students about types of abuse, warning signs, how to support a friend who may be a victim, safety planning and local resources for referral and support. 

Each section has pre and post surveys that gauge the increase in knowledge on the topic, and reveal how many students are involved in abusive relationships, as well as how many are exposed to domestic violence at home. 

Students who pass the PowerBack exam will become certified peer leaders.

Along with the curriculum, APFC will maintain a yearlong presence in the school by facilitating a school-wide awareness event developed by PowerBack peer leaders. 

PowerBack has run successfully in Lodi, Cliffside Park and the Academy of the Holy Angels.

“We applaud the leaders of RDHS for taking this important step," Sgrizzi said.

"If we don’t address dating abuse with students early on, we are putting them at risk."  

Studies show that teen victims of dating violence are more likely to be depressed, perform poorly in school, engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, and girls are six times more likely than non-abused peers to become pregnant, AFPC officials said.

"All teens should have this information if they plan on having relationships," Bressler said.

For more information on how to implement this curriculum, please contact Gloria Sgrizzi at 917-449-7426 or Allison Bressler at 917-306-3684.

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