COLUMBUS, Ind. – Typically, it’s guidance counselors and teachers who help students get ready for college. But at one local high school on Tuesday, it was the police officers prepping teens instead.
At Columbus East High School, they were teaching the young ladies a skill you don’t usually learn in the classroom.
In the wrestling room, 80 high school seniors (all female) were kicking and punching, learning how to defend themselves.
“(I’m) planning to go to school in Philadelphia,” student Rebecca Smith said. “(I) want to be prepared for anything that could come my way.”
Many of those seniors are headed to college, and that’s why their school gave them a pass and let them skip all their regular classes for the day to hang out with the Columbus Police Department instead.
They went through what the department calls its SAFE class. It stands for “situational awareness for everyday safety.”
They learned how to fight back and how to recognize red flags when they’re out at parties or having fun around campus with friends. Keeping their heads on swivels isn’t necessarily something they’ve picked up at school before now.
“We’ve taught them math. We’ve taught them English. We have never once given them a common-sense approach – ‘This is how you defend yourself,’ – and so they’re getting that today,” Columbus Police Department and school resource officer Julie Quesenbery said. “I hope they never have to use it, but if they do, they’re going to be equipped with how to handle themselves.”
Officers went through defensive moves and talked about tough topics like sexual assault and domestic violence.
We asked Quesenbery if she is worried about scaring the young women. She and the students we talked to today say, if anything, this program has made the students feel less afraid and more empowered.
The students say when they do head off to college, they will feel more ready than ever to take care of themselves.
“I think they leave feeling empowered,” Quesenbery said. “If they were to encounter a dangerous situation, they can now handle it. They have the tools to handle it.”