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STAHRS Using the Empowerment Approach to Reinforce Positive Behavior in Youths

Three decades of experience in mental health services has taught Duane Barone that relationships make a lot of difference in human behavior. “It’s all about relationships!” he said. This led him to establish STudent Athletes for Healthy RelationshipS (STAHRS), a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing violence in youth sports and our schools. STAHRS aims to educate young people on the basics of human behavior, psychology and relationships.

February is Teen Dating Violence awareness month! Some of the issues that STAHRS tackles include bullying, sexual assault, teen dating violence, and substance abuse. STAHRS focuses on youths with a special focus on student-athletes to help them navigate their journey in life as most won’t become stars. The founder, Duane Barone, believes that every young person should understand the importance of relationships. “At STAHRS, we educate young people to never perpetuate or tolerate disrespect from anyone. We want them to value themselves and see those same values in other people,” Duane says.

STAHRS developed copyrighted curricula, an Anti-Bullying presentation, and their comprehensive Relationships 101 workshop. STAHRS introduces these materials to their participants so that everyone can apply them in their day-to-day activities. Hopefully, Ambassadors of Change will emerge in each school and youth organization. These ambassadors will help guide, support, and protect their peers, especially those marginalized and on the fringe of the student body. STAHRS promotes INCLUSION to prevent bullying. High school is a major focus because that is where most young adults begin g to exhibit the behaviors they’ve learned over the years at home, in the streets, and on the playing fields. Duane Barone and his team believe that the future starts from now, and they must pull all the stops to ensure a positive future for every young person.

STAHRS is also shedding more light on violence and abuse in homes and other developmental environments. “We can help students understand how their environment plays a significant role in their emotional and behavioral development. Humans react to hurt and pain differently, and we have taken it upon ourselves at STAHRS to educate and teach it to all the students and ambassadors affiliated with our organization,” Duane explains.

As part of building their impact on families and communities, STAHRS contributed to a new children’s book series developed by the FreeBird Foundation in Colorado. The Big Fire (available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble) was released on June 2020 to teach children about the importance of inclusion and to not judge or exclude anyone due to their differences. STAHRS also released a merchandise line which bears messages, such as their seven Core Values that STAHRS upholds, which are respect, balance, equality, teamwork, trust, responsibility, and integrity. 

Duane’s motivation to build the organization was borne out of his experience in the mental health industry. Working with clients in the legal system due to family violence issues, most clients openly expressed a desire to have heard this information in high school. Duane got these types of my remarks often, and it spurred him to do the current young generation one better by creating a structure that prepares them to be great contributing members of society. Their curricula will help our youth to identify and re-write their internal “programs” and to consciously understand the pitfalls they must navigate in their futures.

Duane also experienced his fair share of bullying as a child as an “outsider” due to moving states and changing schools a few times. He learned to understand what was most likely happening at home of those bullies back in the day. This also played a role to create this educational program. Many of his clients experienced bullying or were the bullies. It’s an avenue for young people to unlearn and relearn any negative behavior they might have picked up. Duane is committed to using his broad experience and knowledge to empower young people to take more responsible and conscientious paths in life.

Learn more about STudent Athletes for Healthy RelationshipS (STAHRS) on their website, and visit the Pro Shop. Get your swag for donations and spread the word. Follow them on Facebook and join their FB group STAHRS Against Violence. 

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