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Luvonda Harris Really Cares about You

Written by Mike Savona

How does a 20-year old Kensington native find herself sitting on panel discussions with domestic and dating violence experts and victims pursuing her mission to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of teen dating violence? The answer is simple – she’s Luvonda Harris and she cares deeply about helping other people and helping others to understand that it is not ok to suffer abuse in their relationships.

Luvonda says her drive to make things better for other people are a direct result of her experiences growing up in Kensington. For her first 9 years, Luvonda witnessed the devastation brought about by drug addiction and neighborhood violence. “Walking past murder scenes to catch the school bus left me with a deep desire to make things better – to make the world better” says Luvonda. “It really impacts how you see other people and how you look for ways to change things for the better.”

Luvonda found an outlet for her desire to help others in 2016, while she was a student at Franklin Learning Center. She enrolled in a summer program called S.T.A.R. (Students Talking About Relationships) at the Lutheran Settlement House, a non-profit, community-based organization founded in 1902 and committed to serving children, adults and families living in Philadelphia. Luvonda was drawn to the S.T.A.R. program, which focused on exploring the issue of violence and abuse in teen dating relationships, because she grew up in a home where she witnessed her mother and other members of her family suffer domestic abuse.

“People tend to minimize the issue of abuse in teen dating relationships – to the point that they rationalize it as acceptable behavior. That is not right” says Luvonda. “It’s important that people understand not just that verbal and physical violence in relationships is abuse but also controlling behavior or using money to control other people’s behavior is also abusive.” Luvonda explains that “any manipulation in a relationship that is based on fundamental inequality is abuse and that is not ok.”