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DP students march against domestic violence

Sumter High School, in the USA, raises awareness of domestic violence in the community with an annual walk and fundraiser

“I have several family members that were victims of domestic violence and that led me to research that showed South Carolina as having one of the highest rates of domestic violence per capita in the country,” says Tyler Bridges, who started a Walk Against Domestic Violence in 2007 when he was a student at Sumter High School, in South Carolina.

“It was both a public and private issue for me. In the city of Sumter alone, there was at least one instance of domestic violence every day. I grew up in a rural farming community, and there had been a stigma against talking about domestic violence for as long as I can remember,” he says.

“Talking with my IB classmates, we decided that we needed to shine a light on this ugly part of an otherwise beautiful state. We started this project as a class, faced by a difficult reality, and ended it as a community, hoping that our message would be spread by IB generations yet to come,” he recalls.

The first Walk Against Domestic Violence in Sumter in 2007

This year, Diploma Programme (DP) students at the school, participated in the twelfth Walk Against Domestic Violence, during October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the USA.

“This creativity, activity, service (CAS) project has been selected by DP students year after year because they see the authentic need that our community faces,” says Ann-Frances Brown, CAS Coordinator at Sumter High School. “South Carolina remains one of the 10 worst states in the nation for the rate of women killed by men. Students find that this event allows them to take a stand, raise awareness, and really engage and interact with their community in the process.”

The walk is organized in collaboration with the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association), which runs the local women’s shelter for women and their children, who are escaping abuse from a domestic partner. This year, the YWCA wanted to raise awareness and funds for their new youth programme, designed around educating students in how to develop and foster healthy relationship behaviours.

The students, led by Katherine Singleton and Makenzie Berry, made and distributed flyers advertising the event and held a baked goods sale and sold t-shirts they had designed. They raised almost USD500, which included a donation from the athletics department. They also collected boxes of toiletry items to be donated to the women’s shelter.

The project also gave students an opportunity to demonstrate the IB learner profile attributes. Brown says: “They develop their ability to be effective communicators and collaborators. Students begin the walk with a short speech about the domestic violence in South Carolina. This involves taking a lot of risks for students. They have to be comfortable with the uncertainty that comes from organizing an event that involves so many people. In the process, they learn how to engage with local leaders, solve problems with their peers, and most importantly, they develop a greater understanding of how working with a collective group on a common objective can result in immediate and meaningful results.

“Victims of domestic violence often attend the event, and they are always so appreciative of the support that they see from young people. They can’t believe that teenagers care enough to organize a demonstration of this scale,” says Brown.

She adds: “This issue is one that is very difficult for victims to talk about openly. Showing our community that we are against domestic violence publicly makes it a little bit easier for victims to come forward and know that their plea for help will be heard. Students let leaders of the community know that this is a problem they will continue to address and challenge in the future.”

This article is part of a series of stories that bring to life the wonderful initiatives undertaken by IB students and educators from around the globe. Follow these stories on Twitter @IBorganization, #IBcommunitystories. Share your great stories and experiences: email