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 National Advocacy Learning Center selects two SRU staff 



December 8, 2009

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab



National Advocacy Learning Center selects two SRU staff 


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Karla Forner, program coordinator for Slippery Rock University's Bridge Project, and Jodiann Solito, director of the SRU Women's Center, have been selected as members of the inaugural Advocacy Learning Center class.

Both participated in the center's first weeklong workshop in Washington, D.C., and will continue with the program through 2011.

"The first session worked to teach us about how to be advocates for those involved in violence," Solito said. "It focused on how to advocate for women and children and do it in a broader sense instead of focusing on the actual incidence of violence."

"They tried to show us the view more from a social justice perspective - the big picture - rather than an isolated issue," she said.

"It was really a neat experience," Forner said. "We had the chance to learn about the ways advocacy is being used in other areas of the country. We were reminded to really focus on the people who we are trying to serve. We really learned to focus on the people who need the help. The program ties to SRU's Bridge Project by helping when we are creating policy and ways to help students, and to think about the kinds of programming we want to do to help raise awareness."

"With the existing grant we have, plus the Women's Center, in general, we are trying to be perceived more as a broader entity. We want to address the human condition, not necessarily women only. We want to address social justice issues, pay inequity and violence. Often these issues affect women, but we want to see them as broad issues," Solito said.

"It was an excellent week of intense study," she said. "We will go through two years with the same cohort. We will have Webinars, meet in April and next year visit other advocacy organizations to see how they interplay," Solito said.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women reports the program was created to improve the skills and abilities of advocates to be a powerful force in the movement to end violence against women. The department awarded a $3.5 million technical assistant grant to Praxis International of St. Paul, Minn., to create the Advocacy Leaning Center.

       "The work of advocates is critical to the work of ending violence against women and providing a life line to victims," said Catherine Pierce, OVW acting director. "Advocates have long been a source of hope and support to survivors in the aftermath of trauma, and we will support them and create a network of strong advocates that will work together for generations to come through the Advocacy Learning Center."

Working with other advocates, participants will develop new ways to define and structure advocacy, from engaging and working with survivors to strategizing and acting to change systems and community responses, and discover what has made other social change efforts successful. 

OVW, a component of the Department of Justice, provides leadership in developing the nation's capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of VAWA and subsequent legislation. Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. 

The first class of trainees, which included 50 participants from 17 organizations, represented 12 states and one U.S. territory. SRU was the only Pennsylvania institution of higher education to have staff selected for the inaugural class.

In addition to SRU, organizations participating in the Advocacy Learning Center program were Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc., Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa, Seeds of Hope in Iowa, Friends of Yates Inc. in Kansas, Battered Women's Project of Maine, Spruce Run Association of Maine, Relief After Violent Encounter Inc. of Michigan, American Indian Community Housing Organization of Minnesota, LA-MANO Inc. of Minnesota, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault of Missouri, Enlace Comunitario of New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands' Karidat-Guma' Esperansa, SafePlace in Texas, Tuwaduq Family Services in Washington, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic and the Women's Crisis Center in Vermont.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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