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Tools for healthy relationships: Gwinn High school students are getting them

Students in a 9th grade health education course at Gwinn High School share what healthy relationships mean to them. Angela Micheau, who teaches the course, said students have learned about violence prevention, safety, healthy relationships in a unit of the class and believes this information can provide students with an important tool kit for their futures. (Photo courtesy of Angela Micheau)

MARQUETTE — The quality of a person’s relationships with others can have a significant impact on their emotional, social and physical health, which means equipping young people with the tools to recognize if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy could benefit their current and future relationships with others.

Due to this, students in a Gwinn High School health education course are learning about what constitutes a healthy or unhealthy relationship in a class unit that covers violence prevention, safety, and healthy relationships, organizers said.

“This is a unit where I definitely have all of the student’s attention. It is very relevant to their lives,” said Angela Micheau, who teaches the course at Gwinn High School. “It’s not just about boyfriends and girlfriends, we also explore characteristics of a healthy family structure, healthy friendships, respecting personal boundaries, conflict management skills, assertive communication skills, and personal safety.”

Teaching this subject matter to freshman in high school is extremely important, Micheau said, as it can set a foundation for current and future relationships.

“Students need to have the skills to communicate with each other, understand Michigan laws, and know their rights,” she said. “They also need to know the warning signs of unhealthy relationships, know how to end them, and where to get help.”

This information has already been helpful in students’ day-to-day lives, they said.

“I can apply what I learned into my life by communicating better when I’m in a disagreement,” said Madalyn Brady, a ninth grader in Micheau’s class. “What I found most interesting about this unit is that respect is necessary to properly resolve a conflict.”

Students have changed their thoughts and behaviors surrounding relationships as they’ve learned this information, they said.

“I can apply what I learned into my life by trying to respect people’s boundaries more,” said Jesse Libick, a freshman in Micheau’s class. “What I found most interesting about this topic is how it teaches people to think about other people.”

These statements from students reaffirm the importance of teaching this material at this time in their lives, Micheau said.

“This is a topic we briefly discuss in middle school health classes, but in high school, it is much more relevant to their lives, they can handle to the topic better at high school age, and we spend a whole unit on it,” she said.

The course also teaches students about laws surrounding criminal sexual conduct and the age of consent, sexual harassment, and child sexually abusive material.

In addition to these subjects, the course also teaches students about subject matter such as LGBTQ individuals and bullying, community resources that can be accessed for help and the lifelong impacts that trauma can have on a victim, Micheau said.

Micheau believes this information can equip students with an important toolkit for their futures, she said.

“I personally think the students at Gwinn get a top-notch education in health because I am very comfortable and knowledgeable in this area,” she said. “I talk to a lot of social workers, law enforcement, and health professionals in the community to stay on top of the latest problems. Prevention is key and knowledge is very powerful.”