The experience of forming a Teen PeaceWorks club during her senior year at Norwalk High School turned out to be one of the highlights of Jessica Jaramillo's school career.

"I have always wanted to be a change, a light, a chance, a voice and a friend," Jessica said shortly before graduation in the spring. "Being the founder and president of the PeaceWorks club at my school gave me that opportunity. I believe that PeaceWorks is our youth's hope."

A $10,000 grant from the Fairfield County Community Foundation's Fund for Women and Girls will help to ensure that students in schools across lower Fairfield County continue to benefit from PeaceWorks programs, including the opportunity to join Teen PeaceWorks groups.

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The grant benefits the Domestic Violence Crisis Center's PeaceWorks prevention education project, which provides young people in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 with programs and activities that teach ways to solve conflicts, address bullying situations and form healthy relationships and that foster tolerance, empathy and respect within all relationships and personal interactions.

Teen PeaceWorks encourages teenagers to develop leadership and advocacy skills as they work within their schools and communities to raise awareness about violence and abuse within dating relationships, an issue of increasing concern throughout the country. While PeaceWorks educators and faculty advisers lend guidance, the teens themselves create their own platforms, projects and campaigns for the coming year. Teen PeaceWorks clubs are active at several area schools, including Stamford Academy, Westhill High School, Norwalk High School and the high schools in Darien, Wilton and Weston.

"While the primary goal of PeaceWorks is prevention education and leadership development, our programming can have wide-ranging and long-term effects," said Rachelle Kucera Mehra, executive director of DVCC. "By learning strategies for engaging in safe conflict resolution and developing healthy relationships, young people gain skills that can be beneficial later on in their personal, academic, social and professional roles and knowledge that helps them to make safe and healthy choices in all aspects of their lives."

The DVCC serves Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Weston. For information, call 203-588-9100 or visit www.dvccct.org.