Q: You said that when it comes to preventing violence and bullying, education is the most important tool. Tell us about your educational program.
I launched my foundation in October 2013 with the introduction of The Aspire Initiative, a domestic violence program that aims to reduce the level of intimate relationship violence and instill the importance of bystander responsibility.
This exciting, interactive educational program is available completely free of charge at whengeorgiasmiled.org. The program is designed for three specific age groups, each with its own custom curriculum: tweens, teens/young adults and adults .¨ and is also available in Spanish. It can be done individually in the privacy of your own home, or it can be facilitated by an instructor like a school teacher, a guidance counselor or a youth education director in a church.
It’s important to mention that the reason we customized a curriculum for teens/tweens is that we are rolling this program into schools across the country, and the idea is to get to these boys and girls before they get into relationships, so they recognize what’s ok and what’s not ok before any abuse starts! Sadly, many children grow up in an abusive atmosphere and are raised to think the behavior is normal, and so the cycle continues. Our goal is to prevent the behavior before it begins, as well as to stop whatever habits may already have begun and offer safe exit strategies and resources for those in need.
The program also includes what I’m perhaps MOST proud of, our Aspire News app. This app is the first of its kind, and a major development in domestic violence safety. The app allows you to send a pre-typed or a pre-recorded audio message to multiple trusted, pre-selected contacts, or even 911, saying that you are in trouble. Once you press the “go button” your phone will also start recording audio of everything that is going on in the room, so you have actual audio evidence of threats or abuse. The app also provides articles on domestic violence and other tools readily available to you at all times, including the Aspire curriculum.
Despite all these features, Aspire News is designed to appear like any other news app to the untrained eye, allowing it to be downloaded and used in secret. The user can customize the homepage by choosing one of twelve different news feeds from options including: Yahoo!, CNN, Huffington Post, Univision and La Opinion. The Aspire News app provides an invaluable, unmatched resource to provide safety to those who find themselves in danger. It is completely free and available for download in the iTunes store, through Google Play and at whengeorgiasmiled.org.
The app has had nearly a quarter million downloads around the world including the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and India. I’m proud to share that it was recognized on Capitol Hill by the National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse as one of the two apps in 2014 most effective in the fight to end domestic violence.