MVP sees final year

By Ashan Singh
Published: December 2010

Long-running program, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), was cancelled this year after the funding grant expired and the program lacked adequate supervision from South staff.
Following 11 years of service to both Brown and Oak Hill Middle Schools, Newton South upperclassmen will no longer be holding seminars in eighth grade classes, educating students on the dangers of bullying and sexual harassment.
Initially run by wellness teachers, Bill Fagen and Michelle Coppola, Newton South MVPs underwent an application process in order to gain the title of an MVP as well as undergo two full school days of training.
Following the training, MVPs split into groups of roughly three, and were paired with eighth grade classrooms from Brown and Oak Hill, where they visited three times a year for hour-long seminars.
Last year, after the grant had run its course, Fagen and Coppola managed to continue the program in a smaller fashion without compensation. However, after Coppola’s departure this year, Fagen was unable to continue the program himself.
“Mr. Fagen did a really great job with [MVP], said principle, Joel Stembridge, “but it takes hours and hours and he is just not able to continue to maintain the integrity of the program without being compensated for it.
That being said, Stembridge has made it clear that there are efforts in order to somehow bring MVP back to Newton South.
“Its something that we’re thinking about – how we’re going to maintain or replace it – even with reduced funds. We’ve identified it as a loss, and we’re feeling that loss this year, he said.
“I joined MVP because I really enjoyed the program when I was in eighth grade. Not only is the anti-bullying and sexual harassment curriculum important, junior Lindsey Walters said, “but it is also cool to be a positive role model for students who are about to make the transition from middle school to high school, she said.
While the curriculum was heavily focused on the effects of sexual harassment and hazing, both MVPs and eighth grade students often looked forward to the last five minutes of the seminars where there were opportunities to talk to the eighth graders about high school.
“I do think that it helped people¦, junior Grace Nathans said. “I seriously think that MVP brings up some issues that the kids haven’t really thought about before. If nothing else, it is nice to get high school kids into the middle school just to set a good example.
Mentors in Violence Prevention was founded in 1993 at Northeastern University, initially as a program for student-athletes to educate others on “gender violence as well as “school violence prevention. Eventually the program grew beyond just student-athletes, and all students were able to apply to become MVPs.
Starting in 1999 at Newton South, Mentors in Violence Prevention quickly became prominent at Newton South, where middle school students looked forward to hearing seminars from high school students, and high school students are granted the opportunity to give back to the local middle schools.
“What’s good about MVP is that we had these question type things where there wasn’t a specific correct answer, Nathans said. “This made it extra thought provoking because it wasn’t a simple yes or no answer. It really brought up the shades of gray in relationships, which is something we wanted to make clear to the kids before they got to high school.
A staple at South, Mentors in Violence Prevention offered more to eighth-graders than simply an escape from the repetitive middle school routine: it gave them an opportunity to ask questions about high school, and really connect with high school students about the intimidating environment of high school.
“Whenever we end sessions early, Walters said, “we spend the last five or ten minutes answering questions people have. We talked about everything from what the best electives are to how the lunch schedule works.
Regardless of MVP’s cancellation this year, South MVPs are still hopeful of it’s return.
“I’m really upset it was cancelled, Walters said. “I’ve talked to Mr. Fagen though and he’s working on getting it back for next year, which would be awesome.

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