In high school parents and teachers warn students of the dangers of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. But few warn of the risks of abusive relationships and dating violence.

A group of girls at Lake Highlands High School has decided to take on this task.

LHHS senior Laura Toler has started the service organization Genesis STAR – Students Tackle Abusive Relationships – to make girls aware of the dangers of abusive relationships.

According to Toler, Genesis STAR’s main goal is to make LHHS’ female students more conscious of abusive relationships and to inform them what to do if they are in a violent situation – to show girls “here are some warning signs and here’s how to get out.”

“We are all about educating girls and getting girls in Lake Highlands to be open, aware and thinking about abusive relationships,” Toler says.

The group is also meant to be a way for girls to come together, make friends and talk freely.

“We want to create an environment where girls can come together to build bonds,” Toler says.

The organization encourages girls to discuss what to do when involved with dating violence, how to avoid abuse and how to get out of a violent relationship.

For its first meeting, Genesis STAR welcomed Genesis Women’s Shelter’s executive director, Jan Langbein, who spoke about signs of dating violence and abuse.

“A lot of girls were inspired with what she had to say,” says Toler. “Some girls were skeptical, but Jan talked about ordinary women, everyday housewives who have been through a lot because they didn’t know how to avoid abusive relationships.”

Toler began Genesis STAR when she talked with her mom about dating violence.

“My mother actually went and heard Jan Langbein speak at Forest Meadow Junior High, and she was inspired by things Jan had to say about abusive relationships,” Toler says. “We realized more girls need to be aware. I got together a few outstanding girls who I knew would do a good job.”

The committee is made up of girls form the 10th, 11th and 12th grades who participate in various activities around school.

Genesis STAR is in the midst of planning fundraisers and service projects for the upcoming year, including a teddy bear drive for kids who’ve escaped an abusive parent.

All girls attending Lake Highlands High School this fall are invited to join the organization. Annual dues are $10.

“It’s a super open thing where anyone can feel free to join,” Toler says. “You don’t have to jump through hoops.”

To join Genesis STAR, contact Laura Toler at 214-343-3133 or email her at tinytoler@aol.com.