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Students to walk the walk for healthy relationships

May 11, 2012
By Kathleen Palumbo , Town Crier correspondent

Today's youth needs the emotional support of adults more than ever. Fortunately, many Northeastern Ohio schools now offer the curriculum of Operation Keepsake Inc., the mission of which is to challenge young people to develop healthy relationships and strong character so that they may develop to their fullest potential in life.

Operation Keepsake, Inc. will kick off their Friends4Friends Campaign with a walk-a-thon on Saturday, May 19, bringing to light their Bullying and Dating Violence Awareness Prevention.

According to information provided by Deborah Landis, program liaison for Operation Keepsake, reaching 65 students in one school, the organization began in 1988, and has since reached thousands of students with its positive approach to today's issues of adolescent well being.

Article Photos

Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Austintown is among the 170 school districts to which Operation Keepsake has accepted the invitation to provide programming that encourages them to build and maintain healthy relationships and strong character. Pictured are Austintown Middle School students Dominic DiFrancesco, Sarah Booth, Chayne Cefalde, Timmy Kubacki, and Emily Booth.

Providing educational programming to more than 25,000 students in 170 schools, including Boardman, Canfield and Austintown, as well as youth organizations in northeast Ohio, Operation Keepsake Inc. encourages students to become other-centered, acknowledging the impact of their decisions upon not just themselves, but those around them.

With curriculum available for grades five through high school, presentations encourage not only participation but also communication between students and their parents, as the students acquire skills from which they will benefit throughout their lives.

Landis shared that Operation Keepsake Inc., under the direction of Executive Director Peggy Pecchio, spends a great deal of time researching topics of relevance to today's children and updating the curriculum accordingly.

"The organization really has morphed," said Landis of available programming, which includes "For Keeps," a relationship education curriculum; "Love Doesn't Have a Dark Side," a dating violence prevention and awareness program; "No Bullies Allowed," a bullying prevention and awareness program; and "The Resistance Team," comprised of a co-ed group of college-age individuals committed to understanding and developing healthy communication and relationship skills.

"Young people need courage to stand up," said Landis, who explained that, designed to strengthen young people's confidence to seek help for their friends, the Friends4Friends Campaign relies on the knowledge that when being hurt by a bully or dating partner, young people are more apt to confide in a friend than in a parent or trusted adult and encourages the importance of knowing that being a good friend means offering to help a friend in a difficult situation.

Speaking on the walk-a-thon, "This is our first event open to middle school and high school," said Landis, adding that 50 percent of the proceeds from the Friends 4 Friends Campaign Walk-a-Thon will be given back to the school.

The Friends4Friends Campaign Walk-a-Thon, a three mile event, will be held between 10 a.m. and noon in Boardman Park on May 19. To request a registration packet, call 330-486-0602, or email

Dependent on the age and group of students, "Instructors experience different dynamics," said Landis, who stressed that regardless, "Teens want to talk about relationships." When they're with you, "You have their interest," she said, adding, "You never really know how you're going to touch a life."



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