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Mentors in Violence Prevention launches at Ankeny High

Vivian Wu
On Tuesday, Jan. 30, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) mentors led sophomore Hawk Times through an introductory presentation. Participants created collectively a list of norms they will revisit each month with a new MVP lesson.

Starting Tuesday, January 30, 2024, Ankeny High School (AHS) officially launched its Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program. 

“It is a preventative program,” co-coordinator of MVP and AHS counselor Kelly Andrews said. “The goal of the program is to promote discussions of various safe non-violent options that could be used when confronting bullying, harassment, or abuse.” 

As part of this program, selected students, or MVP leaders, will give presentations about bullying, abuse, discrimination, and other serious topics that might not be talked about openly. The main directives of MVP are to increase awareness and understanding about abuse, discuss the messages that young adults are exposed to, and inspire leadership by empowering bystanders, Andrews says. 

For now, MVP is starting off slow. 

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“Their first lesson was really just to inform sophomores why. ‘What is this?’ ‘Why are we doing this?’ And then our goal was that they could establish some norms to come back to and agree upon as a class,” Andrews said.

MVP mentors led Hawk Time classes through a presentation and various team-building activities and finished by having students sign classroom contracts where they agreed upon shared norms for each MVP lesson. 

“I think it helped me get to know my classmates better and lots of good team-building happened,” AHS sophomore Chloe Macke said. 

Most sophomores seem to understand the importance of a program like this at AHS.

“I think it is important to learn about these topics because you do not actually know when you will have to face these problems,” AHS sophomore Omar Alvarez said.

A lot of sophomores seemed confused with the first lesson senior and MVP leader Lily Garcia said.

“I feel like they were just like, ‘Why are we doing this? This is common sense.’ But I feel like it is… really something we need to talk about,” Garcia said. “They [students] don’t understand the purpose, which is understandable because they are still really young, but the whole goal is to… really make them realize [that MVP is important]. I think it will really become more obvious when we get into more of our lessons about abuse…” 

To Garcia, it seems a lot of students just are not yet accustomed to the lessons. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, MVP mentors led their second lesson about rumors and the impact that they can have on students and mental health.

“I do not blame them [students] because they did not ask to be pulled into a Hawk Time to get talked to about stuff like this, but I feel like the more weeks we do it, the more understanding they will have hopefully, and it will not be as awkward,” Garcia said.

This year, AHS’s MVP program has 60 leaders, most of whom are seniors and juniors. 

“I wanted to join MVP because I knew that this year especially the sophomores were kind of not the kindest people,” senior and MVP leader Jesse Kenseth said. “Not a lot of people care about other people which is a problem.” 

According to Kenseth, respect is a large issue at AHS that needs to be addressed and MVP is a great way to address this need. 

“We have had some situations around the school,” Kenseth said.  “We have had all sorts of different fights. I even walked through one on the way to a MVP meeting this year. I think talking to them [sophomores] about this kind of thing will help loosen them up and not make them so tense.” 

Giving sophomores lessons will hopefully encourage more maturity within the coming generations of students. 

“I think it is important for the sophomores because I think we have had an increase in bullying and fighting,” Garcia said. “And so I think doing it with the newer generation of students at AHS, maybe they can go on to spread the good, and hopefully it will mature them a little more than when we were sophomores.”

The goal is to have 100 mentors in the 2024-2025 school year. 

“We have a great senior class who kind of have dove in and I am so grateful for them,” Andrews said. “I am so grateful for the juniors that we have and I am confident that we will have more as well to step into that role. Their leadership has mattered so much and so we are then gonna need sophomores to fill in those roles as well.” 

MVP began this year by building its leaders’ skills in group facilitation. 

“We have spent the entire first semester investing in our leaders. We have done a lot of work helping model and understand the purpose, the model, and the why of the program,” Andrews said. 

MVP mentors were taken through lessons in meetings throughout the first semester. 

Their goal for the rest of the semester is to deliver lessons to sophomore Hawk Times once a month. Hawk Time occurs every day between sixth and seventh periods and is a chance for students to get support in classes and makeup assignments or tests. Next year, Ankeny and Centennial’s (CHS) MVP programs will work together to create a year-long plan. 

“I am excited to have a more intentional rollout next year where we will train our mentors again. We are going to partner with Centennial,” Andrews said. “We will align our MVP program so that we will go in to do our relationship-building in September. Then we will start with our lessons.” 

CHS began its MVP program before AHS. They began delivering lessons during seminar periods before AHS did. 

“The neat thing is that it is a district initiative. We would have probably started that same year, but [we had] the change of principals, and then I was on maternity leave when they got trained, so we actually have a team of teachers and admin who are trained who are MVP trained,” Andrews said.

Then an official MVP sponsor position was created and that is where Andrews and AHS interventionist Dru McAnelly stepped up as co-sponsors. The long-term goal is to see an actual shift in culture at Ankeny.

“I think it will [help shift culture in a positive direction] if students actually choose to understand and participate,” Garcia said. “But if they do not, and if they really have no care for it and do not bring any effort to participate, then it will not. But I also think that just comes from a state of understanding of what we are doing and wanting to be a part of it and learn.” 

The program will also be introduced at Southview and Northview. The ninth graders will be presenting to the eighth graders.

“We will still keep our MVP mentors as upperclassmen, but then we will have tenth graders who will maybe have already been MVP mentors… I think it is a great opportunity for students to grow,” Andrews said.

For students interested in joining MVP, applications will open at the end of March for the 2024-2025 year. Applications will be sent out as a Google Form. 

“You have more power than you think. And you can directly impact the culture of our building in a positive way,” Andrews said. 

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About the Contributor
Vivian Wu
Vivian Wu, Web/Print/Multimedia Editor; Videographer
Vivian Wu is a senior at Ankeny High School. She serves as co-web/print/multimedia editor and specializes in multimedia for The Talon. Outside of The Talon, Vivian is president of C.O.R.E., plays center snare for marching band, plays drums for Visual Adrenaline, is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and helps lead Reel Ankeny Productions.
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