Message for new chapters:
I was Morgan Harrington's professor in the last Spring of her life. I remember the beautiful, smart, modest, empathetic girl who sat in the front row. She sparkled with potential, and already had a teacher's heart, a heart of service.
If you saw the recent 48 Hours Season Premiere, you saw how the Harringtons, the Grahams, RG who flew back from India ten years after her near-murder to testify against Jesse Matthew, Alexis Murphy's family--they are all such public servants, too, working now as a powerful chorus, despite grievous family injuries, through Help Save the Next Girl.
I'll attach below the letter I send out to faculty or student leaders at schools (university, college, high school, middle school) where there is interest in starting a new chapter of Help Save the Next Girl. I encourage you to read our web site, helpsavethenextgirl.com.
We've changed laws, inspired students, helped victims' families create fast media attention, written essays, and helped save the next girl.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Jane Lillian Vance
Vice President, Help Save the Next Girl, and
Morgan Harrington's professor in the last Spring of her life
My name is Jane Lillian Vance. I serve as Vice President of Help Save the Next Girl, and Advisor at Virginia Tech, where we have the first campus chapter of Help Save the Next Girl (HSTNG). It is my pleasure to respond to your interest in forming a new chapter.
On behalf of the Harrington family, all of us who work hard to keep our message in the public's mind, and all of my Virginia Tech students committed to Help Save the Next Girl, please accept our support as you consider opening a new chapter of Help Save the Next Girl. What a great idea, especially as the world still aches after the news that the remains discovered in Albemarle County on October 18, 2014, in fact belonged to 18-year-old University of Virginia student, Hannah Graham, and that Hannah's cause of death was determined as "violent homicide." We are sick with sorrow, but we turn our grief into action to help save the next girl.
All new prospective HSTNG chapter leaders should read the following material and then report back to me with their interest and information.
Allow me to share a public service announcement that the VT HSTNG members produced. Here it is, 33 seconds:
Check out this video on YouTube:
Here, too, is an endorsement from our just-retired head football coach, Frank Beamer:
Check out this video on YouTube:
As you may know, VT Help Save the Next Girl was formed in honor of, and to insist on creating a positive legacy for, my abducted and murdered Virginia Tech student, Morgan Dana Harrington.
Morgan was my front-row student during Spring Semester, 2009. She was brilliant, fun, modest, loving, and compassionate. She wanted to be a teacher. She was twenty years old when she was stolen from her family, her friends, her teachers, and her own bright future. She was missing from October 17, 2009, until, 101 days later, a farmer, checking his fence lines in a remote pasture, found her skeletonized remains.
Unfortunately, Morgan was neither the first or the last young woman to be abducted or murdered. Our organization works diligently and determinedly to change the culture of complacency that surrounds violence against women. That work centers on education (personal safety and awareness programs), victim/family resource support, and legislative advocacy. We appreciate your desire to participate in the important work of keeping women safe from violence. We think it is some of the most important work of our time.
Every time a new chapter of Help Save the Next Girl forms, we take a strong stand against the predators and their violence. We are outraged that such crimes exist and continue to occur. We work, as Morgan's parents urge, to Help Save the Next Girl.
Every new chapter will have its own "personality".
What might a chapter of Help Save the Next Girl do?
Consider some of the following activities in your own new chapter of HSTNG:
For universities, do a Hidden in Plain Sight photo campaign on your campus. VT HSTNG team members did photo shoots in more isolated parts of our campus, as well as showed individual women who were possibly emotionally isolated even in a busy area. Make your community learn to SEE isolation and make posters and captions to REMIND students to look out for individuals who may be vulnerable. Invent ways to help spread the word.
Change how you walk, notice, and respond. With VT Help Save the Next Girl, I talk about the re-enchantment of community. I mean that if you see a vulnerable person, you do not shrug and forget the distress. Depending upon what is safe, you make a call or provide assistance. To the extent that you see the beginning of trouble, you do not allow that trouble to bloom into vulnerability and ripen into danger. Help Save the Next Girl is a moral injunction. You have to see that your action may be crucial, and that despite inconvenience or awkwardness, you must take that action. Walk the walk of vigilance.
For any university, or any public school, or for a group which forms through other affiliations, if you MAKE BRACELETS or T-SHIRTS, consider getting ENDORSEMENTS. For example, at Virginia Tech, several of our coaches, including legendary football coach Frank Beamer, wear our VT HSTNG bracelets and our signature 2-4-1 dots during nationally televised games. At your school or in your community, photos of leaders and well-known personalities wearing your chapter's bracelet or t-shirt could become laminated posters, local newspaper stories, or highway billboards. VISIBILITY MATTERS, and inspires even passersby to think of what it means to Help Save the Next Girl.
Approach civic leaders and workers, your mayor, or banker, or restaurant owners, your county superintendent, your news anchors or chief of police and sheriff, your grocery store manager, mall manager, or movie theatre manager, or other leaders concerned with public welfare or whose establishments include, for example, large open parking areas or parking garages or outdoor gathering areas such as swimming pools or parks. Ask them to stand in their place of work, holding up their wrist with your chapter's bracelet or t-shirt, as an endorsement of the safety and vigilance HSTNG promotes. Ask permission to use their photos, and make pages that local school children can use as assignments. Imagine a classroom hand-out with a local personality, say the mayor, smiling and wearing the HSTNG bracelet. Each child could write a paragraph under the photograph abo ut w hat the mayor is trying to say by wearing that bracelet, and how that particular child will try to help. Collect these responses. Bind them, print them, and fundraise locally with this booklet of your own community's children's voices explaining how to Help Save the Next Girl.
The VT HSTNG group travels to the Copley bridge in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Morgan Harrington was last seen alive before her abduction and murder on October 17, 2009. We take chalk and posters and spend hours designing the sidewalk with our message. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and passing cars see the activity and think of what it means to Help Save the Next Girl. Know Morgan Harrington's story.
Know other young women's stories. Tell those stories. Use the girls' names. Speak for them because their voices have been silenced. Let your conversations demonstrate your concerns and your commitment. Represent your chapter with dignity and energy. Ask local authorities to be sure your CHALK EVENT is in an appropriate public area. Invite media to cover the story, and thank them when they do. Send them off wearing your bracelets. Always spread the word. We appreciate crowds and coverage.
Every new chapter will have its own "personality" and proceed working against violence in the way that best suits the needs and talents of their particular club. Finding that path is an organic process. Contact other club officers on line for help in jump starting your discussions and planning. The National HSTNG organization hopes to start the conversation and let the chapters take it forward as they see fit, make it their own. Please be aware in any fundraising activities that the 501-c 3 not for profit status of the National HSTNG Organization does not transfer to a chapter club. Each chapter conducts its club activities and its finances independently.
To the faculty advisors of new clubs, I extend this advice:
Since we believe each chapter is a local hybrid, faculty advisors' duties will vary, but here are some ideas.
I meet when my group meets, and sometimes have them to my home or to a restaurant. The less sterile setting, the easier collaboration. And although our meetings are friendly, I of course retain and manage a degree of formality.
I would see what talents your group has and facilitate the discussion of what your goals are. See who can get a FB page started, who are your graphics geniuses, who knows videography or photography, who likes managing your group's list serve for minutes and announcements, who can imagine projects and who can write captions, scripts, presentations, and then help to stir the outcomes.
Help students look back at my letter for examples of campus or community or media activism, then listen for, facilitate, and help organize and to some extent refine and edit new ideas.
Encourage the work, help see it into creation and help document it. Make the meetings fun, discuss observations and ideas, because what we DON'T do is dully reinvent the wheel of safety presentations. Force the students to articulate what needs to be expressed.
Our product is our message.
The idea I think is to create amazing, startling new local work, great visuals, PSAs, community presence and events, which can also be blasted out over social media.
Can't wait for your laboratory to start cooking.
Let us know at helpsavethenextgirl.com<http://helpsavethenextgirl.com> how YOU are Helping to Save the Next Girl. We would love to share your ideas and photographs!
Please let us know if you move forward and establish a faculty advisor and campus branch.
So, to review what you need to start a chapter:
1. No, you don't have to file anything. We, the national original branch, are the non-profit. Every chapter is a loosely affiliated local branch, not connected to us financially or legally. We simply share a message.
2. What you do need is to be sure whether your school has any local rules for an official club (stipulations such as a principal's approval or regular meetings)--and that you get permission.
3. You need a faculty advisor--basically a staff member, teacher or counselor, to help oversee and guide your club.
4. You also need student officers. Which ones? A president, and then you can decide the others. Maybe a web site organizer? We do ask that you make an attractive FB site, which you keep updated, so that we can communicate that way. A secretary or VP? Up to you.
Which officers you have is a local decision.
5. You should write your own statement about what your branch represents and what you hope to do.
To review our core beliefs and hopes:
1. Media presence: I am delighted to describe further how our compelling results have risen up from the real, and I think unprecedented, grass roots at the base of Help Save the Next Girl.
Occasionally, in a rare moment or two of catching our breath, we at Help Save the Next Girl are astonished by the reach and exponentiation of our message, and by the fact that we have become the de facto organization for keeping the individuated stories of the abducted and murdered girls in the forefront of our national mind, as never before. We were on The Anderson Cooper Show, Good Morning America, in The Washington Post, and in The London Times within a week, as well as on every network in the state of Virginia, and this saturation has held true for five years and is strongest now.
2. Design Assembly and Distribution:
We would point out first that what really distinguishes Help Save the Next Girl as a non-profit is that we believe in broadcasting, in seeding, in giving away all of the many resources we have invented and crafted, rather than in copyrighting or in any way withholding our designs and products. We happen to have gathered a committed team of graphic designers, web site wizards, investigative-minded sleuths, artists, and chalk, ribbon, and glitter craftspeople who continue to feed the media machine, which needs the punch and impact of new graphics, new visual presentations to anchor their stories. Preposterously, we have functioned as a volunteer army of brilliant media scientists, creating our Nobel prize-worthy work for the Next Girl, in the unacknowledged frenzy of our lunch hours.
3. We boost public awareness of crime:
As startling as it is, Help Save the Next Girl is the cutting edge of response to abduction and murder in the state of Virginia and beyond. The Crime Commission in Richmond invites us to help revamp and standardize their responses to missing cases. We go to Richmond. We go where we are needed. Legislatively, we are consulted and respected. One of our team produced the staggering graphic map of the missing and murdered along the Highway 29 corridor. Television stations, police chiefs, and state bureau of investigation officers hold up this map. We produced it.
The naterials we share in Richmond and to television stations become the standard for expressing the state of crime and the paucity of resources for victims and their families as well as for communities such as Charlottesville, recently.
4. We model smarter relations between students and law enforcement:
At Virginia Tech--Morgan Harrington's university, which awarded her a posthumous degree, after her murder--around each April 16th anniversary of our 2007 campus massacre, the VT chapter of Help Save the Next Girl has for years fed the entire campus police force both breakfast and dinner, home cooked meals, for two days, to recognize their sacrifices and care, eroding possible barriers etween students and law enforcement.
5. We motivate and equip new chapters:
We also distribute our starter kits for the new chapters of Help Save the Next Girl, packed one by one in my basement, as gifts. These starter kits include life-saver mints stapled to our cards, a load of t-shirts, brochures, ink-injected HSTNG bracelets, and a letter of thanks. This welcome allows the new groups to present on campus grounds immediately as a force for good.
Each new chapter of Help Save the Next Girl has been hand-inducted. Our letter of introduction to each inquiry is accompanied by personal email contact, and each new chapter is celebrated on-line. We collect no dues. We have a strong network on Facebook. We friend one another; we nurture a national network; and we chat-room brainstorm our comeradery daily. Our new chapters are popping up like popcorn. And now, we have moved from university, to high school, and recently, to middle school chapters of Help Save the Next Girl.
But we are not about racking up chapters. We are about finding people who are committed, putting tools in their hands, providing exciting examples of local chapters' creative work, and setting them free to make a strong presence in their own communities.
6. We reach an increasingly broad, young, and national audience:
In other words, we personally shepherd each new chapter and tailor our message for the different age groups. We have also partnered with Girl Scouts of America to make presentations suitable for young children. We have supplied sheriffs and law enforcement officers with a flip chart book we have made for public school elementary children. We have written The Butterfly Book: Morgan's Story, and we intend that copies should go to police officers deputed to visit public school classes (influenced, we believe, by the new paradigm we have furthered, a collaboration between law enforcement, media, victims' families, and students) and to teach safety, and then leave a copy of the book with a teacher and the school librarian. We push in many directions for outreach.
7. We advocate for victims' families and constantly invent new ways to raise public awareness:
The families of missing girls depend on us. We use our public status to bring the families of the abducted into public media. We hold them up, begin their media campaigns while they are paralyzed with grief, and supply them with the supplies and events to make their loved ones' cases prominent enough to garner massive attention. This work of ours was especially notable for 17-year-old Alexis Murphy's family and for 18-year-old Hannah Graham's.
Despite hurdles, we continue to be creative and to make a difference.
We have made a QR code graphic to attach to pizza box lids, alerting the public to the names and stories of currently missing local women. This one graphic has reached thousands.
In short, our graphics, our activism, our mentoring, our teamwork with law enforcement, and our compassion and eloquence have made us indispensable. We have shouldered and funded Help Save the Next Girl from my kitchen counter and a few cell phones. We incur expenses because we are doing good. Our reach is expanding quickly. The need is tremendous. Someone recently said that we are the next MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We have turned the cultural tide away from complacency. We intend to keep turning on the lights in dark places to prevent predatory danger. We want to awaken our girls who believe they are Teflon. None of us is Teflon.
With your help, we will help so many girls. We will Help Save the Next Girl.
OUR PRODUCT IS OUR MESSAGE. We are inspired to keep our message in the public's awareness. We WILL help save the next girl.
We will make our logo available in your school colors and welcome you to the proud circle of advocates for our precious girls and young women, and we will be excited to media-blast your arrival!
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Jane Lillian Vance
Vice President, Help Save the Next Girl,
Advisor, VT Help Save the Next Girl, and
Morgan Harrington's professor in the last Spring of her life