By Bob Skolnik
A Riverside-Brookfield High School senior is appearing in public service announcement on several social media platforms, decrying teen dating violence.
Emily Graham late last month was one of hundreds of Chicago-area soccer players chosen to film public service announcements, which are appearing this month on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
The PSAs were filmed on Jan. 27 at the media day for the PepsiCo Showdown, a large high school soccer tournament in April. A nonprofit group called Buddy's Helpers, which is associated with the PepsiCo Showdown, is sponsoring the PSAs. Community service activities are always part of the Pepsi Showdown.
Graham attended the media event with a few other members of the RBHS girls soccer team. When the organizers of the event asked for players to volunteer to appear in public service announcements about teen dating violence, Graham stepped up. It is a subject she cares deeply about.
"There is a lot of stigma around dating violence in general, especially around teen dating violence, and I don't think that schools or parents talk about it enough," Graham said. "A lot of people would rather push it under the rug or avoid talking about it, because it makes others uncomfortable."
Graham's participation in the PSA was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.
The issue is somewhat personal for Graham, because her mother was the victim of an abusive teenage dating relationship.
"My mom was in a violent relationship when she was in her teens, so we've talked about it before," Graham said.
Graham said dating violence is covered in the sophomore health class at RBHS, but she believes that the school should give it more attention in the curriculum.
"It should be a staple in what we teach and what we learn every year," Graham said. "It shouldn't just be glossed over for a week and a half and then forgotten about."
Graham, standout goalie, is receiving a scholarship to play soccer next year at Purdue University, where she plans to study nursing. She signs her national letter of intent on Feb. 7.
"I knew that I was going to play soccer in college, I just didn't know where and when the opportunity to play at Purdue opened up I jumped on it," Graham said. "I was super excited. I connected with their goalkeeping coach first and then their main coach later, and it was just a really crazy experience."