When he was in middle school, Jaylin Green ran with a crowd that picked fistfights for the fun of it. But Saturday, the Roxbury teen was recognized for his contributions to a city program that combats teen dating violence in Boston.
Since 2008, Green has worked as a peer educator for the Start Strong program, which is run by the Boston Public Health Commission. The program teaches healthy relationship skills to Boston students ages 11 to 14, according to a statement from the city.
Green, 19, lives in Roxbury and is a senior at City Roots Alternative High School at West Roxbury Academy. He was awarded the Youth Spotlight Award by a selection committee composed of high school juniors and seniors from across the city, according to the statement.
“When they called me, I was speechless,” Green said. “For them to pick me for the award, it was one of the biggest awards I ever received. I love doing this work and helping to change more lives.”
In a phone interview Saturday afternoon, Green credited his involvement in the Start Strong program for reversing his behavior.
“My middle school years were just terrible. I was fighting a lot,” Green said. “When I joined Start Strong, I had a new set of positive friends and cut out the bad ones.”
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Green plans Start Strong programming and helps lead workshops for students. He says the program has a substantial effect on students.
“We do a lot of role-playing scenarios, and as we have more meetings, they improve their awareness,” Green said. “We teach that physical abuse is not the only kind of dating abuse, and when we do role-playing, they come to understand that some situations are not healthy.”
A major event for Start Strong is the “break-up summit,” which has been held since 2010. The summit focuses on recognizing abusive behavior and how and why students should end unhealthy dating relationships.
In addition to being an instructor, Green has also become Start Strong’s “events guru.” He recently organized a fashion show to raise awareness of healthy relationship practices, according to the statement. Green also planned a basketball tournament for the cause.
After high school, Green said he plans to pursue higher education in the culinary arts.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino presented Green with the Youth Spotlight Award at a ceremony at the Parkman House on Saturday morning.
“We don’t hear enough about the great work being done across our city by young people like Jaylin,” Menino said in the statement. “I admire the courage he has to educate his peers on such an important and sensitive issue, and I know he’ll have great success as he moves on to college next year to pursue a career in culinary arts.”
Shari Davis, director of the Mayor’s Youth Council, said more youth spotlight awards could be coming.
“We really want to recognize all of the positive student leadership in the community,” Davis said. There was a lot of variety in the kinds of leadership we saw in the [nominations for the award].”Chris Stuck-Girard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.