Empowering young people

WRAP educator works to build support for area youth

A supportive adult can make a huge difference in a young person’s life, Brittany Miller said. It’s something she wants more southwest Minnesota youth to be able to have.

“Giving kids that opportunity is something I want to do,” she said.

As youth programs coordinator with WoMen’s Rural Advocacy Programs (WRAP), Miller has been working to teach area youth about healthy relationships, and help connect them with support and resources. This year, she’s led educational sessions at schools in area communities like Marshall and Lynd.

Miller has worked with WRAP for about six years. WRAP is a nonprofit that serves and advocates for survivors of domestic abuse in a four-county area.

From the start of her time with WRAP, Miller worked with people who were experiencing domestic violence. But starting in 2019, she also began working with youth education programs.

One educational program Miller has been facilitating with area school groups this year is the “Not A Number” program created by Love146, an organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation.

While preventing human trafficking is a large focus of the program, the “Not A Number” curriculum also covers topics like building healthy relationships, and recognizing “red flags” in dating and online conversations, Miller said.

Trafficking is something that people in rural Minnesota need to be aware of, Miller said. A person being trafficked is being exploited to provide labor or sex for financial gain, she explained. However, victims of trafficking are often being exploited by someone they know, like a partner or family member.

“It is happening in our communities,” she said.

Miller presented the “Not A Number” curriculum to students in Marshall and Lynd this school year. She enjoys working with the students — “The kids are way smart,” she said. Miller said she tries to create a safe place for kids to talk about issues affecting them. It helps that the “Not A Number” program has classes over a span of five days.

“They are able to build trust over those five days,” she said.

Kathy Orthaus, social-emotional learning teacher at Lynd Public School, said students normally go through a unit talking about bullying. This winter, older students did the “Not A Number” program at the same time.

Orthaus said students learned about topics like cyberbullying and staying safe when using technology.

“It was an eye-opener,” she said. “I don’t think children are really aware of all the dangers out there in the cyber world.” She said WRAP was also able to approach the topic with realistic examples.

Lynd students also learned the importance of not being a bystander when someone is being bullied, and how to reach out to trusted adults for help, Orthaus said.

Miller’s work with WRAP took her all the way to Washington, D.C., in September. She was one of a group of 12 people participating in the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy, a fellowship program from the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. Miller said the fellowship group went through leadership training, and gave presentations on ways for schools, organizations and communities on ways to prevent online abuse and trafficking.

“It was an insane experience,” but a good one, Miller said.

Miller said she plans to keep working with area youth in new ways. She hopes to create a workbook on tech safety, and this summer she plans to start a life skills program for at-risk youth.

“When you don’t have life skills, you’re more vulnerable,” Miller said.

Building connections with adults in the area community would also help give at-risk youth a support system and better access to resources, she said.

To start with, the skills program would likely be based out of Redwood Falls, Miller said. Possible learning topics could range from building cooking skills, to navigating the financial aid paperwork to pursue higher education.

Miller said seeing young people gain new knowledge or confidence, was one of the positive things about her work.

“Watching people be empowered — you can’t describe that,” she said.


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