Healthy Relationships for Youth (HRY) is a school-based, peer-facilitated, violence prevention program developed by the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association and offered in partnership with schools locally and across the province. Grade 11 and 12 students are trained to deliver a series of twelve HRY sessions to Grade 9 students in partnership with the Healthy Living classroom teacher. The interactive sessions are designed to reduce the risk of violence for youth through developing their skills and knowledge about creating and maintaining healthy relationships.
HRY has been cited as a promising practice program for the way it involves youth as peer educators in the classroom, schools and communities. The program has been offered to 10 local high schools since 2006. Since then HRY has continued to grow and is offered in 25 schools in communities spreading from the Yarmouth area to Springhill to the South Shore. HRY has reached approximately 4,821 grade nine students and has trained 985 youth facilitators around the province.
HRY uses a strength-based approach which encourages students to develop a deeper understanding of diversity and to both recognize and challenge sexism, racism and homophobia as forms of violence that impact personal and social relationships. HRY is evaluated each year to assess effectiveness and to ensure materials remain relevant for youth. This past year, the evaluation told us grade 9 students in the HRY program are:
- deepening their understanding of healthy relationships,
- building problem-solving and communication skills, and
- more open to and accepting of others who are different from themselves.
The youth-to-youth teaching strategy is a key strength of HRY. Youth facilitators from grades 11-12 participate in training on leadership, facilitation skills and critical analysis; skills they bring into the classroom and build on in years to come. They report increased confidence in public-speaking and leadership skills, knowledge of issues affecting youth, improved personal relationships and involvement in social action.
HRY High Schools for the 2014-2015 school year:
- 10 schools in the Strait Regional School Board,
- 5 schools in the Chignecto-Central School Board,
- 3 schools in the Tri-County Regional School Board,
- 4 schools in the South Shore Regional School Board,
- 2 schools in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, and
- 1 school in the Halifax Regional School Board.
HRY continues to evolve incorporating youth voice, teacher feedback and emerging issues into the framework. Internal and external evaluations highlight strengths of the program:
- Youth-centered, youth facilitated learning
- Violence prevention with a diversity focus
- Building key skills for healthy relationships
- Gendered analysis in program design
- Collaboration between community organizations and schools
- Adaptable model for replication in other communities and school boards
- Linked to grade nine Healthy Living curriculum outcomes.
HRY Awards and Commendations
- Featured as a Best Practice Program at the Canadian Women’s Foundation National Skills Institute in 2012 and participating program in the National Teen Healthy Relationships Working Group. (2013-present)
- Highlighted as a Promising Practice by the Public Health Agency of Canada on their Canadian Best Practice Portal 2012.
- Recipient of the 2013 Ministers Award in Leadership in Crime Prevention from the NS Department of Justice.
- Highlighted as a “Promising Practice” by the Child and Youth Strategy, 2014