Teen dating violence is not a topic often discussed in classrooms.
Juniors in South Elgin High School's BEACON Academy program decided to tackle the issue by making videos as part of a statewide challenge by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Four BEACON Academy juniors earned second place for their video, which will be used for preventive education, said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Nearly 40 schools statewide participated in the contest with more than 200 students producing videos and public service announcements on teen dating abuse.
"It just makes it even more special for the students when they see the fruits of their work pay off," said Cheryl Klein, one of three teachers overseeing BEACON Academy. "I am proud of all of my students. They put their whole heart and soul into it."
Klein's entire junior class submitted five videos for the contest, one of which won second place.
Representatives with the Community Crisis Center in Elgin presented BEACON students with the award Tuesday morning at South Elgin High School. The four girls on the winning team -- Madison Ascher, Samantha Boesch, Stephanie Lose, and Maddie Schoenick -- each received a mini iPad.
The award is a first for the BEACON (Broadcast Education and Communication Networks) Academy -- one of five academies within Elgin Area School District U-46 that serve as a school within a school.
It's the second year for the contest -- launched last fall in partnership with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's office and sponsored by Verizon.
Lake Zurich High School won first place last year.
"We have a marketing committee. They were looking at some ways to try to begin the focus on prevention rather than just intervention," Smith said. "We needed something that is congruent with the message, easy to understand, and audio and picture quality needs to be OK. This was a challenge. We've had a lot of great entries from all over the state."
Smith said a goal of the contest was also to get member organizations working on abuse intervention to engage with their local schools on prevention. "Many of our members already do some type of presentations in schools," she added.
Klein said her juniors just started learning techniques of persuasion, advertising and commercials this year.
"This was the perfect timing for us learning how to put together a PSA," Klein added.
"We talked about the different angles of (teen dating abuse)," she said.
The video that won addressed the male/female relationship, and the hurt and dread that goes along with relationship abuse, she said.
"It had a really good, solid story line," Klein said. "It had a strong message. It had a lot of emotion involved in it."
Smith said messages that come from peers are often better received than those from organizations.
"That was one of the big reasons to do (the contest)," she said. "Young people pay more attention to each other than they do to us. We wanted to focus on identifying what teen dating violence was, but the message is healthy relationships."
February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in the state.
Smith said the winning videos are posted on the coalition's website and can be used by groups providing teen dating violence intervention services.
"They all are cleverly done. They are engaging. They have a good message in them," Smith added.