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AHA! Movement Starts New Middle School Program By Debbie Smith, M, Founder & CEO

AHA! Movement Starts New Middle School Program 


By Debbie Smith, MM, Founder & CEO AHA! Movement


The AHA! Movement (AHA!) is an anti-hazing awareness non-profit foundation created in loving memory of my son Matthew Carrington who was killed in a water hazing while pledging a fraternity in Chico on February 2, 2005.   


The statistics surrounding hazing are astounding. We know that hazing starts as early as elementary school. Forty-seven percent of children are hazed by the time they graduate high school, but what’s even more staggering is that for college level students who join any type of club, organization, or sports team, that number grows to sixty-seven percent. Just this fall, we had three hazing deaths in four and half weeks. 


We lose children to hazing every year. Why? Because most people, young and old, don’t understand hazing or what it represents. Far too often, hazing is confused with bullying and masked by traditions, and as a result, people who are being hazed don’t even realize what or when it is happening. 


AHA! was created to educate children and adults on recognizing hazing -- what it looks like, the many shapes it takes, identifying it in its infancy stages – and then understanding what to do when hazing happens to them or someone else so they can promote healthy alternatives.  


AHA!’s Be Aware Program has been successful in high-schools and colleges, but we know we need to reach our children earlier.  AHA! believes we need to change the mind-set and culture before children get into college. By starting in middle school, we can open students’ eyes to what they have learned to accept as normal and then re-enforce our teachings in our high-school program, thus empowering them with the tools and a voice to be safe from the dangers and, most importantly, be an agent of change.  As parents, educators, and institutions, we cannot change a culture within a culture that has been around for centuries, but our youth can. They just need the tools to do so, and that is where AHA! comes in.  


Recently, AHA! partnered with Macy’s Department Store in Walnut Creek to help start our much anticipated middle-school hazing awareness program. Currently, we are looking for middle-school students aged 12 ½ and 13 as well as parents of children ages 12-14 to be a part of our focus groups to help us retool our high-school program, ensure it is middle-school-age appropriate, and help us determine the best way to assure that our life-saving-message is received and inspires positive group behavior. 


We are looking for volunteers.  If you or your child would like to be considered for our focus group, please email [email protected] and type “Middle School Program” in the subject of your email. 


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