The staff at Free Spirit is privileged to work with many amazing authors. We will be sharing more author spotlights with you, and hope you enjoy learning about these writers who are dedicated to helping kids succeed. The following spotlight was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News.
Alison Feigh serves as the program coordinator at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, a program of the National Child Protection Training Center. Influenced at an early age by the abduction of classmate Jacob Wetterling, she became an avid spokesperson on issues of personal safety. Alison has been tackling the problem of missing and exploited children for over a decade—providing education and support to families and communities. Alison holds an M.S. in criminal justice from St. Cloud University. Read on to learn about a day in Alison’s life.
When I speak in schools, it is quite common to have a line of students wanting to tell stories or ask questions one-on-one after the presentation. In one of my April events on “Protecting Your Online Footprint,” an 8th- or 9th-grade guy stood waiting for his turn to talk to me, and he looked very concerned. When it was his turn, he asked me: “If my friends and I are able to stop online and sexual violence, will you be okay? I want to make sure if our generation can get together to end this, that you have a backup plan.” I assured him that it was my goal to work myself out of a job and that I would be just fine if there was no more prevention work to be done.
Kids today. They give me hope.
Child abuse prevention has been my work for 15 years and I have yet to have a boring day. In part because I work with children and teens who keep me on my toes, and in part because program management for a nonprofit is never boring. Flexibility, approachability, and passion are traits that are valued in the lifelong learners who make up our team. I have been with Jacob Wetterling Resource Center since the pre–cell phone days and I hope that as more technology options are released, we still find ways to encourage empathy and upstanders both in person and online.
I will never take a healthy workplace for granted. I am so thankful for the folks working together on big projects and intentional moments of change to make the world a safer place for children. It is the mission for those of us who work at Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center to end all forms of child maltreatment. We also know we won’t do it alone. There are so many varied and engaged voices working to prevent violence and abuse on local and global scales. I continue to learn with and learn from those who have come before me and the children who bring their own ideas to the table. We need to do a better job in this field of getting a variety of voices to the table. Sexual abuse prevention is not a woman’s issue. It’s a problem that requires a wide spectrum of voices coming together with ownership in being a part of the solution. If you have never been invited before to take your place in learning and talking about prevention, consider this your invitation.
My day is filled with outreach and advocacy projects that range from writing content for a prevention booklet for parents of elementary school students to talking online risks with tweens in their classrooms. One of my professional highlights this year was training rabbis from eight different states and four different countries through Yeshiva University without leaving my desk using the power of the Internet! The Internet itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s a tool that can be used to help or hurt. We use it every day to spread prevention messages and get the word out quickly about missing children and adults. Kids are engaged in positive Internet activities daily as they raise money for clean water or use a Twitter account to encourage a friend. We have to do a better job of celebrating what is working as we work to clean up what isn’t working.
Our program was founded following the abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling from St. Joseph, Minnesota. His parents wanted something positive to come out of something horrible. We have helped thousands of families in our 25 years as an agency, and I take great pride in the work we do to help other families of the missing. The reality of this work is that if the hotline rings with a crisis call and my colleague is out at an educational event, I need to be prepared to switch gears at a moment’s notice, from prevention to advocacy. A parent whose child ran away will not (and should not) understand that I also have a grant report due in the morning. The human being needing help always goes to the top of the list.
I am often asked if my work is depressing. Some days and moments can be emotionally exhausting, but is also balanced by a hope-filled environment. I work with some of the kindest and bravest adults in the world. Their work and passion is contagious. I also work with kids and young people. Their intent faces and open hearts remind me why this work is so important. Kids today. They give me hope.
Alison is the author of I Can Play It Safe and On Those Runaway Days eBook.
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