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.
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.
Teakia is the Program Manager for Start Strong at the Boston Public Health Commission in the Bureau of Child and Adolescent Health. Start Strong is a nationally and internationally recognized Peer Leader Program that focuses on youth development, innovation, and media literacy to address its goal of preventing teen dating violence and healthy relationship promotion.
She is a passionate advocate for adolescent sexual, reproductive, and reducing racial health disparities. She is incredibly driven and has pursued experiences in health promotion both nationally and internationally, as a member of the Peace Corps and in school-based health and community health centers in Boston.
Mariam Gulaid is Senior Program Manager at Start Strong. She holds a MPH in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education from Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University and a B.A. in Sociology from Columbia University, and has experience working on adolescent health in the United States and Southern Africa.
Mariam is passionate about social and structural determinants of health and loves working from and learning from young people.
Outside of work, Mariam also recently completed her 200 hour registered yoga teacher training, though has yet to start teaching regularly.