Help Save the Next Girl held its first annual Safety Summit at Christiansburg High School Saturday to teach students and parents about issues such as substance abuse, dating violence and cyber safety.
The non-profit organization, which focuses on personal safety and violence prevention, was founded by Dan and Gil Harrington after their daughter Morgan Harrington was abducted and murdered in 2009.
About 60 students attended the event, which was limited to middle school and high school students due to the nature of the topics being discussed.
“You are our future, protect yourself and protect each other,” Gil told students during the first few minutes of the summit.
In conjunction with Help Save the Next Girl, the event was planned by Beth Connelly, a testing coordinator assistant at Christiansburg High School, and Jennifer Underwood, a School Resource Officer at Eastern Montgomery High School.
“I don’t ever want one of our students, or anyone else, to be in that position and meet the same fate, so spreading this message of safety is a top priority for me,” said Connelly, who co-sponsors Christiansburg High School’s Help Save the Next Girl chapter.
“There are so many obstacles that students face when it comes to staying safe these days. We wanted to share information on some of the dangers they will encounter and provide a plan on how to handle them,” Connelly said.
Underwood said she thinks the summit is important because it provides tools that could help students avoid a dangerous situation.
“It is something that could easily be prevented if we educate, listen and help children make safe choices,” she said.
Jane Vance, who taught Morgan at Virginia Tech, told audience members during an introductory statement that Morgan would be proud of the organization’s work.
“She had a servant’s heart, and she would want to save the next girl,” she said.
According to the organization’s website, there are currently about 50 chapters across the country.
Travis Bishop and his daughter Erin Bishop, a Kipps Elementary School student, met with Gil Harrington during the summit to get a signed copy of Harrington’s new book, “Morgan Harrington: Murdered and Dead for Good.” Vance co-authored the book.
“It’s a wonderful program,” Bishop said. “It’s something that all kids need. They need to be aware of all the dangers out there.”