By Diamond Richardson
DALLAS – Participants in HIV prevention education classes held at Buckner International’s Simari Ridge Community Resource Center graduated from the program in a ceremony at the Urban League of Greater Dallas administration offices.
“One of our guiding principles is to empower the community through the power of life,” said Loretta Johnson, health director for the Urban League of Greater Dallas, to the graduates. “The life that each of you are saving by completing this program is your own.”
Simari Ridge collaborated with the Urban League of Greater Dallas, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to provide HIV prevention education to adults in the South Dallas area, said Carter Shepard, community resource coordinator for Simari Ridge.
Students learned about gender specific issues, HIV prevention, safe sex practices and behavioral self-management during SISTA, the women’s program, and NIA, the men’s program, said Tynetta Runnels, lead facilitator for SISTA.
“There are a lot of role-playing situations, where we put people in certain situations with a girl or guy and work through how to handle the situation,” said AnDrou Hatchett, lead facilitator for the SISTA program.
Runnels said many of the women were passive when it came to HIV prevention because they had low self-esteem coming into the program, but she hopes the program will encourage them to take charge of their sexual health.
“I will definitely make sure my next boyfriend gets tested,” said Lytisha Robinson, a SISTA graduate. “And if he is not OK with that, then he can’t be with me because SISTA has taught me to love myself more.”
Kerry Washington, a graduate of the NIA program, sang at the graduation ceremony.
Kerry Johnson graduated from the NIA program and said he is thankful for the valuable information he learned.
“Before these classes I heard about HIV and AIDS on TV but I didn’t really know a lot,” he said. “Now I know what signs to look for and I am going to be more aware of who I choose to be with.”
At the graduation, Johnson encouraged the students to take what they have learned and share it with others.
“AIDS is the number one killer in the African-American community but information brings transformation,” she said. “Now we are going to release you to the front lines of this war and we are going to fight it.”
To find out more about the ways you can support Buckner community center programs, please call Buckner Foundation at 214-758-8050.