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Straight Talk Student Forum

Engaging students in open forum discussions about community-related violence

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg facilitating Straight Talk Student Forum with 200 students

As part of our prevention-focused community outreach, in 2013 the United States Attorney’s Office launched the Straight Talk Student Forum initiative in partnership with Communities in Schools (CIS) of Georgia. The program is designed to engage at-risk students in monthly open forum style discussions on a variety of community-related violence prevention topics. Students are referred to the program by school administrators, CIS Site Coordinators, and teachers, based on a unique set of criterion provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  The Straight Talk sessions are facilitated by our staff and federal law enforcement partners from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration Custom Enforcement, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The session format includes lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and interactive exercises and discussions designed to engage students. Typical Straight Talk sessions range from 60 to 90 minutes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Beranek (center left) and Human Resources Assistant Dia Louis (center right) leading a Straight Talk session entitled Building Your LIFE Resume

Year One (2012 – 2013 school year)

In the first year of this program, twenty students from Osborne High School in Marietta, Georgia participated in the semester-long Straight Talk program.  Each month, students in the 9th – 11th grades openly dialogued with facilitators about the following topics:

  • Decision-Making and Problem-Solving,
  • Drug and Gun Violence Prevention, and
  • Gang Resistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg (R) and DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Ira Blander (L) discuss internet safety and child predators with 20 students

Year Two (2013 – 2014 school year)

In the second year of this program, we took the semester-long Straight Talk program to Villa Rica, Georgia, where all 400 freshmen at Villa Rica High School participated in a forum on internet safety and cyber-bullying. After the initial forum, approximately 27 students participated in monthly discussions about the following topics:

  • Decision-Making and Problem-Solving,
  • Life Skills for Success: Building Your LIFE Resume, Part I,
  • Life Skills for Success: Building Your LIFE Resume, Part II, and
  • Leadership.

Students provide feedback after a Straight Talk session

Year Three (2014 – 2015 school year)

In the third year of the program, our office partnered with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office initiative entitled “Voices of Youth Symposium,” which is modeled after Straight Talk.  An average of 22 students in 7th and 8th grades participated in the program at McNair Middle School in Decatur, Georgia. This version of Straight Talk will last for the entire school year, and uses open discussions and group mentoring to develop meaningful relationships with students and encourage positive behavior. Program topics included:

  • Internet Safety & Inappropriate Use of Social Media/Crimes Against Children,
  • Gang Resistance,
  • Bullying,
  • Teen Violence & Anger Management,
  • Human Trafficking,
  • Life Skills, and
  • Leadership Skills.

“[I learned to] watch who you hang around and don’t get smart with adults. Before you act, think about your future.”
~Student, Villa Rica High School

“I learned that you can’t trust anybody on the internet that you don’t really know.”
~ Student, McNair Middle School

Updated April 17, 2015