UNI Center for Violence Prevention Recognizes Participating High School Districts

The University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention, in conjunction with Verizon HopeLine, held a luncheon to recognize the achievements of participating high school districts April 6 at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds addressed attendees and presented awards to representatives from nine school districts from across the state.

Students and administrators from visiting school districts spoke about their experience with the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training, spearheaded by the Center for Violence Prevention. Founded in 2011, the Center, in partnership with community service providers and with public/private foundation support, has trained and facilitated the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model and bystander education program to more than 50 secondary schools and colleges in Iowa.

“This is what it takes,” Governor Branstad said. “Public/private partnership and people who want to stand up and make a difference.”

The Center’s MVP training helps students to identify ways to prevent or stop bullying and gender violence from escalating, understand the dynamics and social norms that support bullying and gender violence, and lead discussions with peers on strategies and actions to use to prevent bullying and gender violence. The MVP program has trained 1,761 students from across the state.

“We have several people – students and staff members – who feel very passionate about the MVP model,” said Jodi Vogt, Counselor at Waukee High School. “It has created conversations with students about topics that are difficult to talk about and has brought an awareness of strategies that can make a difference in violence prevention. The program empowers people to use their own voice and gives each student the confidence to know one person can make a difference.”

Susan Langan, counselor at Cedar Falls High School, has seen MVP become one the school’s largest leadership groups. 

“All of the students at the high school went through the lessons as sophomores,” Langan said. “A lot of the MVP leaders are still a little hesitant to become facilitators of classroom discussions about very controversial subjects, but after they have done it one time, they gain so much confidence. The MVP program gives a great structure to help empower students to do the right thing.”

Following the luncheon, Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, and Director of the Center for Violence Prevention Alan Heisterkamp presented a plaque to representatives from each school, recognizing their commitment to student mentoring programs focused on bullying and gender violence prevention.