Start Strong Initiative
Start Strong is an internationally recognized high school peer leadership program that aims to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships. We use a trauma-informed, positive youth development framework to start conversations on systems of oppression, intersectionality, and prevention/promotion work primarily using a media literacy lens. All of our work is youth-created, -driven, or -inspired, which means that youth are the heart of our program.
Imagine a world where we all were able to do whatever we wanted without the fear of being judged.
Evaluating knowledge, attitude, and behavior change
Theory of Planned Behavior
We have the strongest results with our Peer Leaders, as they are fully immersed in our programming and receive the highest dosage of content. Research shows statistically significant growth in knowledge, attitude, and behavior shifts among Peer Leaders.
Since 2008, we have trained 100 Peer Leaders from across Boston’s diverse neighborhoods. Peer Leaders have come from private, public, METCO, and charter schools. On average, Peer Leaders entered the Start Strong program in the 10th grade and 93% of Start Strong Peer Leaders went on to graduate from high school.
Teen Dating Violence Prevention
The goal of this teen dating violence prevention effort is to go beyond individual prevention tactics and to build a community-wide, well-researched prevention model that will have significant impact on young people in Boston.
Start Strong aims to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships.
To go beyond individual prevention tactics and to build a community-wide, well-researched prevention model that will have significant impact on young people and youth providers.
By including Boston young people in program development from planning to implementation, we are making sure that we are not just talking about teens, but to them and with them to help become part of the solution to the very serious issue of teen dating violence.
Preventing Dating Violence
Start Strong is an internationally recognized high school peer leadership program that aims to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships.
All of our work is youth-created, -driven, or -inspired, which means that youth are the heart of our program.
Research shows a statistically significant growth in knowledge, attitude, and behavior shifts among Peer Leaders.
Peer Leaders work on media campaigns aimed at preventing teen dating violence among teenagers in Boston and increasing their healthy relationship skills.
We educate and engage youth who are both in and out of school, aiming to promote healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence.
Since 2008, Peer Leaders and staff have led more than 300 trainings with over 26,000 attendees.
Meet Our Dedicated Team
Jess Alder is the Program Director of the Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationship Initiative at the Boston Public Health Commission. She holds her Masters in Public Administration from Suffolk University.
For four years, Jess was an educator, advocate, and consultant for rape crisis centers in Denver and Boston. She has been working in the field of teen dating violence for the past 10 years in Boston and has over two decades of experience working with young people as an educator, coach, and mentor. Jess has conducted local, national, and international workshops on healthy relationships, healthy break ups, media literacy, and crisis intervention.
Most recently, she co-created a Porn Literacy Curriculum for young people which was featured in the New York Times.
Janae Lewis is a Program Manager for the Start Strong Initiative at the Boston Public Health Commission. Janae is a Start Strong alum who graduated from the program in 2016 and went on to graduate from Tech Boston Academy in Dorchester, MA that same year. She went on to earn a B.A. in Gender Studies from Mount Holyoke College in 2020 with a minor in Anthropology.
Since being a peer leader in high school, Janae has always kept a passion for sharing accessible and comprehensive sexual and reproductive education with young people, especially young people of color. While in her undergraduate career, she had the opportunity to earn a Five College certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, where she was able to explore the impacts of race and gender on our health system and everyday experiences.
Gargi is a Program Manager at Start Strong, an internationally recognized high school peer leadership program at Boston Public Health Commission that aims to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships. She is a South Asian from the Middle East and holds a Master’s in public health from Boston University.
With her exposure to people from different cultures and backgrounds she has developed a keen interest in advancing healthcare equity amongst racial/ethnic minorities through healthcare communications. She is also passionate about healthcare ethics, and international human rights.
A Poem from Cynthia
Starts at the heart
Transforms your mind
Analyzes every spot
Rearranges your daily thoughts
Teaches lessons that people haven’t taught
Sticks together like glue
The Peer Leaders and Staffs ain’t no fools
Redesigns the system so it works for me and you
Open minds that allow people to see the truth
Never going to stop serving the youth
Going around helping you, is all we want to do.