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Students ‘Chalk It Up’ for domestic violence awareness

FORT KENT, Maine — Fort Kent Elementary School students decorated the sidewalks of Main Street in Fort Kent with messages of hope for those suffering in domestic violence situations during the seventh annual Hope and Justice Project “Chalk It Up” event on Thursday afternoon.

Sixth graders from the school used colored chalk to write inspirational messages such as “love, not hate,” “love yourself,” and “be strong” on the sidewalks in town.

The Hope and Justice Project, which sponsors the annual Chalk It Up event, is a non-profit organization that provides community education about domestic violence and offers support services for those who are affected by it in Aroostook County.

Tammy Albert, volunteer prevention coordinator for the Hope and Justice Project, said educating children about healthy relationships and bullying is part of the organization’s mission.

“Our thinking is that early prevention is the best prevention,” she said.

Student Quinn Michaud  said he learned a lot when Albert visited his classroom to talk to the students about domestic violence prior to the event.

“I learned about the effects of what happens to children when they experience violence,” he said. “I feel like kind of weird because I don’t know how parents would treat kids like that.”

Hope and Justice set up a display featuring the names of six females who lost their lives to domestic violence in Maine as of April this year, as well as that of Amy Theriault, a St. Francis woman who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2014 at the age of 32.

Amy’s youngest daughter, Taylor Michaud, 11, was one of the sixth graders who took part in this year’s Chalk It Up event.

“I’ve already known everything (about domestic violence) since I was little,” she said.

Barb Theriault — Amy Theriault’s mother and Taylor Michaud’s maternal grandmother — also attended the Chalk It Up event, as she has each year since her daughter died.

“She’s learning early about prevention,” Barb Theriault said of her granddaughter. “She knows first hand about loss. If it ever happens to her she’ll know what to do.”

Barb Theriault said she appreciates that Hope and Justice makes an effort to provide domestic violence education to students through the annual Chalk It Up event.

“This is great because it heightens awareness and helps to educate our children and also educate our public,” she said.  

Hope and Justice also will hold a “Light It Up” event in Houlton on Oct. 4 and a “Walk It Up” event in Presque Isle on Oct. 12.

The Hope and Justice Project has a free and confidential hotline number: 1-800-439-2323.

For more information about the Hope and Justice Project, visit the organization’s Facebook page or website.

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