The Chicago Journal

STAHRS Counters Negative Human Behaviors by Empowering Student-Athletes and the Youth

Working in mental health services for the past 31 years, Duane Barone realized that “It’s all about relationships!” He is the founder of STudent Athletes for Healthy RelationshipS (STAHRS), a non-profit organization that aims to lower the trajectory of violence in schools by educating the youth on human psychology and behaviors.

Home to seasoned professionals in the industry for decades, STAHRS hopes to play a pivotal role in reducing teen violence, bullying, sexual assaults, and substance abuse. They have empowered students, specifically student-athletes, with an open perspective that would allow them to overcome various circumstances in their journey. The founder aims to focus on student-athletes because they are typically student leaders and he feels that society has long shrouded them with ideas of teen masculinity and entitlement.

“Our motto is ‘Changing locker room behaviors and attitudes,'” said Duane. “STAHRS will educate the young men about how and why they need to respect women. For the girls, I want them to understand that they should never settle; never settle for disrespect, abuse, or being devalued,” he added. The founder seeks to empower his clients to learn to value themselves and other people, a quality that can never be acquired with any medal or through athletic success.

STAHRS utilizes it’s Anti-Bullying and Relationships 101 curricula to serve their clients better. Additionally, the organization wants to establish ambassadors that would spark a change in their student bodies and be an example. High school is one of the most crucial parts of a student’s life as it is where the various principles and lifestyles learned at home are reinforced and played out. “Teen dating violence statistics mirror those of adults,” he claimed.  Duane and his team realize that it’s the best opportunity to mold the future generation and produce a better society where people value respect and social consciousness.  The future must start today.  

The founder realized that most irrational behaviors teenagers display is merely a product of experiencing violence and abuse at home or in other intimate environments. “STAHRS can help children understand what baggage means and how it affects us. It is logical if you understand the parameters and how humans tend to react to hurt and pain. But more importantly, we can teach students why it’s important to understand each other and take care of each other compassionately,” said Duane.

Furthermore, STAHRS was asked to contribute to a new children’s book series developed by the FreeBird Foundation in Evergreen Colorado, an organization that helps disadvantaged families in the Front Range of Denver. In particular, The Big Fire was developed to address inclusion and acceptance to prevent bullying. It is set in Rocky Mountain National Park and illustrates how we can become afraid of outsiders and judge them by superficial differences,” shared the co-author.

Additionally, STAHRS also released its clothing line highlighting various aspects of healthy relationships, such as their seven core values—balance, equality, trust, teamwork, integrity, responsibility, and respect. Asked what motivated him to create the organization, Duane shared that it was his professional clients who routinely stated, “I wish that I had this information in high school. I would have been a better man, husband, and father,” he recounted. This led Duane to take it to the next level—“teach the children instead of their parents,” he said.  My clients enter counseling “bitter,” he claimed.  They leave B.E.T.T.I.R.R.

The founder had his share of bullying growing up, transferring from one school to another, and having some unique experiences in competitive sailing. Duane has experienced prejudice just because he was different from the rest of his peers.  But with his education and professional experience, he now understands why the people who hurt him acted the way they did.  He wants to use his knowledge to empower the youth in taking a more socially conscious and responsible path in life.

He was horrified to witness the Columbine shooting massacre while living in Scotland.  As a graduate of Columbine High (class of ‘83), he was shocked to see the events at his alma mater where one of his teachers, Coach Dave Sanders, was one of the victims. He also met several Columbine students the following year when he returned home for his graduate school training. Duane stated that the mission to reduce interpersonal violence in our schools will make them safer on all levels, including safer from school shootings as many of the school shooters experienced high degrees of violence in their lives.  

Learn more about STudent Athletes for Healthy RelationshipS (STAHRS) on their website.