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AHS hosts Helping Hands Project

As part of the school’s recognition of Crime Victims’ Rights Week, students from Albany High School’s law and justice program planted 98 pinwheels that represent the 98 juvenile victims of violent and sexual crimes in the Dougherty and Lee County area from Jan. 1-March 30 near the school’s main entrance.

As part of the school’s recognition of Crime Victims’ Rights Week, students from Albany High School’s law and justice program planted 98 pinwheels that represent the 98 juvenile victims of violent and sexual crimes in the Dougherty and Lee County area from Jan. 1-March 30 near the school’s main entrance.

ALBANY -- With the help of area agencies, the law and justice program at Albany High School did its part Tuesday to acknowledge the significance of victims' rights and sexual and physical abuse prevention.

In addition to holding a ceremony proclaiming this week as Crime Victims' Rights Week and placing pinwheels near the school's front entrance, students participated in the Liberty House's Helping Hands Project, which serves as a call not to engage in sexual or physical abuse.

The proclamation, which was signed by one of the school's administrators, stated that the school would be acknowledging victims' rights awareness throughout the week, said Lynn Miller, law and justice teacher at Albany High.

From Jan. 1-March 30, there were 98 juvenile victims of violent and sexual abuse crimes in the Dougherty and Lee County area. In honor of those victims, Miller's students placed 98 pinwheels outside the school's front entrance.

Miller also said the school was visited by a representative from the Lily Pad Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center, who mentioned in a presentation to the students that there had been an additional 21 juvenile crime victims in the area since March 30. The speaker also advised on services available to crime victims.

During their lunch period, students were given the chance to participate in Helping Hands, for which students signed a contract pledging not to participate in physical or sexual abuse, made an imprint of their hand and signed their name next to it.

In all, there were roughly 100 hands placed on poster boards at Albany High Tuesday, officials said.

Miller, who said this is the school's second year recognizing Crime Victims' Rights Week, indicated that educating youths on victims' rights is an important step in opening their eyes to how the criminal justice system works.

"Before this movement, there were no rights for victims," she said. "Victims often don't know how the court system works.

"A lot of them (the students) weren't aware of the services available. If they knew about them, they had been victims themselves and didn't know there was a time when we didn't have (victims' rights)."

The Helping Hands Project started as an initiative last year to encourage men not to use their hands for domestic violence. Since then, there have been multiple entities in the community that have expressed interest in the project, officials say.

"Everyone wanted to be involved," said Keisha Massey, assistant director of Liberty House -- an organization that provides shelter and services to those impacted by domestic violence. "The kids have had a great response to it."

A few schools in the area other than Albany High have expressed interest in the project after hearing about it via word of mouth, officials said. Officials hope to get the project out to these schools, as well as any others that request it, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

Massey said she believes Helping Hands has been effective at raising awareness of the issue of physical and sexual abuse.

"We want to continue to build on that success," she said. "We want the community to embrace this. The purpose of this is to educate and bring awareness to the community. We need to come together so this (violence) doesn't continue."

Anyone interested in Helping Hands or learning more about it is encouraged to call Liberty House at (229) 439-7094.