RESPECT Releases 2016-2017 Annual Report
As the Founder & Executive Director of RESPECT I am pleased to share our 2016-2017 Year End Report!
17 years ago, I sat around the table at the Market Basket with a dedicated group of community donors, stakeholders, and advocates and we launched RESPECT. As a startup organization, it all began with making phone calls and meeting with principals, PTA leaders and other school personnel making the case about why teaching students about bullying and dating violence was important. What was the response? “Bullying is something that is just a part of life that kids have to go through. They get tougher because of it.” Or, “This is the kind of thing that needs to be talked about in the inner-cities,” said those in rural communities. “You should take this program out to Greater Nebraska where they really need it,” said those in the urban areas. Many said, “These messages might be important, but we don’t have that kind of problem in our school.” Everyone had a reason why they didn’t need RESPECT. But we persisted.
As a teacher, child psychologist and special educator, I knew first-hand the effect that bullying and abuse had on students. I saw the anxiety, the inability to focus at school, the fear of participating in after school activities that could be so enriching to the lives of children. The children who I saw were retreating from the joys of childhood. The parents of those children felt like they didn’t have the tools to help their kids deal with these challenges. The educators, counselors, and other professionals working with youth on the front lines knew that something needed to be done. So we collaborated with community partners from across Omaha to educate those at the top that an organization dedicated to using theatre to demonstrate, interact, individualize, practice, and provide resources to teach skills that help kids keep themselves, their peers and communities safe is exactly what would turn things around. It was truly a grassroots effort.
Now, awareness has grown and the demand for our programs is huge with our audiences reflecting a wide range of age and diversity, hailing from all over Nebraska and Iowa. We meet this demand with just one full-time Associate Executive Director, a three-quarter time Executive Director, and part-time Artistic Director, Training & Education Director, and Scheduling Coordinator in addition to our diverse team of actor-educators. As we end the past year with great accomplishments, we are on track to reach our 500,000th participant in the next few months – that is half a million!
I hope that you will take a look at our 2016-2017 Year End Report and see the great work that we have been doing. From a time when no one thought that a program like RESPECT was needed, to now reaching 500,000 students, educators, parents and community members, it is important to think about how this monumental change in perception and acceptance in our community has only been possible with your support. Thank you – We could not have done it without your help!