Operation Keepsake, Inc.
Operation Keepsake Inc. builds strong adolescents through life skills programming that engages youth themselves in leadership roles, where they write and produce their own publications and organize special events and campaigns to address relevant issues.
Operation Keepsake, Inc. Empowers Youth and Creates Community Leaders
Operation Keepsake, Inc. (OK) is a community-based nonprofit that began in the spring of 1988, reaching 65 students in one school. Since that time, thousands of students have benefited from OK’s approach to the issues of adolescent health. OK provides educational programming in over 170 schools and youth organizations in the northeast region of Ohio. Its programs encourage students to become other-centered as opposed to self-centered and to acknowledge that their decisions not only affect their own lives but those of others around them. Peggy Pecchio, Operation Keepsake’s Executive Director, speaks passionately about OK’s goal to challenge young people to develop healthy relationships and strong character so that they may flourish to their fullest potential. By helping young people now to establish a foundation of healthy relationships, strong character, and sexual restraint, OK believes these youth will be better able to build and sustain committed marriages and strong families in the future.
OK has been able to achieve its mission through exceptionally strong life skills programming for youth. It is marked by two key elements. First, it utilizes proven curricula including:
- For Keeps, a relationship education curriculum reaching out to grades 5-HS;
- No Bullies Allowed, a bullying prevention curriculum for middle and high school students; and
- Love Doesn’t have a Dark Side, a dating violence prevention curriculum for middle and high school youth.
Second, it engages youth themselves in responsible leadership roles where they create their own publications and organize creative events. Middle school youth work together to produce YourFuture—OntheLine™ magazine, which circulates throughout Ohio twice annually. The high school publication, represent®magazine, circulates throughout northeast Ohio three times annually. Each publication addresses pertinent contemporary issues for teenagers with articles and question/answer forums written by youth. Most recently, represent®magazine featured a cover story entitled STANDING UP. SPEAKING OUT. It showcases well OK’s approach: not just to inform youth about issues, but to encourage them to stand up and speak out to promote their own well being and to encourage their peers to do the same.
Another hallmark of OK’s approach is its Peer Leadership Councils. These feature a select group of high school students in six school districts chosen for their leadership skills. The groups meet ten times during the school year to address the topics of dating violence and bullying. Each group is responsible for creating a community-wide campaign to bring awareness to issues of violence. The Councils have created videos that are being featured this fall 2013 at a film festival entitled the Friends4Friends Campaign. The student-created videos are then distributed to the districts to be used as prevention resources that include teacher and parent guides.
OK also produces an e-newsletter for parents, called Directions. It is designed to encourage parents to communicate their values and expectations regarding healthy living with their children.
To gauge its influence among participating youth, OK administers a variety of participant surveys. Data collected indicates that participants gain a greater understanding of how to nurture healthy relationships and become more optimistic that they have learned skills needed for engaging in healthy relationships and, eventually, marriage. OK also reports that participants increasingly understand the benefits for children of strong, happy marriages. OK program participants also report lower engagement in psychological aggression and increased confidence in their ability to communicate effectively with a partner. Participants, both male and female, also indicate that they have become more confident in their ability to effectively and safely leave an abusive relationship.