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Sharon Love to speak about staying safe in college

Soroptimist International of Arbutus is teaming up with the Wilkens Police and Community Relations Organization to give high school seniors in the area a lesson in preparing for college.

But the topic is not a traditional or academic one.

The groups are hosting "Transition to College: Be Safe" at the Arbutus Library April 16 with Sharon Love the keynote speaker.

Love is the mother of Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia lacrosse player who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in May 2010.

Sharon Love will be part of a five-member panel who will speak to how to stay safe in college with particular focus on how to avoid relationship violence.

Love said it is important to raise awareness about the warning signs of a violent relationship before physical abuse begins, in order to ensure a safe exit.

"I think they have to know the warning signs," Love said on April 4. "Stop it before it starts.

"My advice is first to tell my story and how naive we were," she said. "We had no idea ever.

"That was so far off our radar that anything like that could ever happen," Love said of her daughter's murder.

"It would be like thinking we could go to the moon next week. It was off our radar screen. I want to put it on their radar screen," she said.

Love, in partnership with her daughter Lexie Hodges, co-founded One Love Foundation, with its mission to raise awareness about relationship violence by sharing Yeardley's story.

"She went off thrilled with everything new and being away from home. She was studious. She was a great athlete. She had everything going for her. She was on the honor roll. And it happened to her," Love said of her daughter, a graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School..

Raising awareness is what Arbutus resident Zoe Ann Rohm had in mind when she came up with the idea for the seminar, which will also focus on binge drinking, the buddy system, campus safety and managing stress and mental health.

"My goal is to try and make (high school) seniors and their parents aware of what they can expect when they go to college," Rohm said.

"And to make them aware of what they need to do to be safe," she said.

Rohm said she got the idea after talking to a friend's daughter-in-law, whose daughter is preparing to start college in the fall.

"I said, 'Just make sure, if she has a drink in her hand she doesn't put it down'," Rohm said she told the friend.

"And she said, 'Why?,' " Rohm said, noting her friend's lack of awareness that "date rape" drugs can be added to drinks without the drinker knowing.

"We chatted for a while and I got to thinking, maybe she's not the only mom who doesn't know about that," she said.

That lack of awareness may not be limited to parents, she said.

"I think, even though we think kids know a lot (about safety) today, maybe they really don't," Rohm said.

"And after they get to college, you can't get to them," she said.

Deborah Milani, a senior at Catonsville High School, plans to play lacrosse at University of Maryland after graduating in May.

She said she plans to attend next week's seminar to ensure she will be prepared for what awaits her.

"I know that there's going to be a lot of fun stuff and you're going to be going out," she said.

"But you have to make sure that you know the right places to be and make sure you're always with somebody you trust,' Milani said.

Because Yeardley Love was also a lacrosse player, Milani is especially looking forward to hearing what Sharon Love has to say about staying safe in the world of athletics.

"I read into that story a lot when it happened," she said.

"I know we'll be hanging out with the lacrosse guys," Milani said. "So it relates to any athletes."

She said she plans to balance athletics with her social life by maintaining a strict work schedule during the week and making sure she stays with people she trusts on the weekends.

"You have to be smart. You've just got to be careful," she said.

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