In the long, early evening shadows Tuesday, nearly 100 middle- and high-school artists wore their art on their sleeves in the Boise Art Museum's sculpture garden. The students—almost all of them marked with multi-color chalk smudges—illustrated messages on healthy teen relationships. Their inspiration came from poems written by their peers.
"Last October, we launched a statewide poetry contest. We had 1,600 high-school entries and 1,600 more from middle-schoolers," said Kelly Miller, executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. "We published the top 110 from each category. Tonight, we have teams of students, from 10 middle schools and 19 high schools, with each team choosing one of those poems to illustrate."
Students turned powerful words into equally dynamic images through the evening, each demonstrating the cause or effect of healthy or unhealthy relationships.
"This is really inspirational," said 16-year-old Khadija Khan, a junior at Capital High School. "I want to help out my community in any way I can."
Khan served as one of the evening's emcees, along with 17-year-old classmate Sara Leonard.
"I see a lot of jealousy in school and some teens think, 'That's so cute. He's getting jealous,' or 'She's really possessive and that's a sign of love,'" said Leonard. "That's really not healthy. It can lead to constant texting, isolation and infatuation instead of a healthy relationship."
Leonard and Khan call themselves "teen activists" for Start Strong Idaho, which teams with Miller's coalition to engage and empower teens in efforts to prevent dating abuse.