The eight week course started on Feb. 20


KIRTLAND — Female students enrolled in a new program offered by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office spent part of Wednesday learning how to manage their stress and about the importance of fitness and nutrition in their lives.

Twenty students from Kirtland Central High School are taking part in the new Lioness Project. The program is offered by the Sheriff's Office to help prepare students for life after high school and to offer mentorship.

The program is an eight-week awareness and leadership course created by the Sheriff's Office's school resource officers for female high school students.

It launched on Feb. 20 and goes through April 10, when they hold a graduation ceremony and dinner for the students enrolled.

Deputy Robin Varela led the students Wednesday through a presentation about stress management, fitness and nutrition in a classroom at the high school.

Varela developed the project with the goal of providing mentorship and leadership to area students, hoping to stop a cycle of domestic violence incidents she runs into while on patrol.

"I wanted to make sure these girls got a good grasp on what the world will be like when they get out of high school," Varela said.

The students have already participated in classes focused on self-defensive tactics, sexual assault awareness and internet safety.

Some of the classes are held off school grounds, including the self-defense tactics class, which was held at the Safety City police officer training facility in Kirtland.

Freshman Hailey West explained the students learned techniques to protect themselves in scenarios including if an attacker tries to grab them from behind.

She said she was happy the program was teaching her to be mindful of her surroundings and what safety precautions to use while on social media.

Students will take part in a trauma/first aid class when they return from spring break.

Varela hopes the students will learn to administer first-aid treatments to a friend or fellow student if someone becomes injured, along with possibly rendering aid if they arrive at a vehicle crash.

Some of the students have reached out to Varela on her personal time and discuss things that were bothering them.

She hopes this program helps students develop a good relationship with law enforcement so they will not be scared if they need to reach out for help.

"I never had any sort of help in my life," Varela said. "I hope to make sure this program is giving them some sort of advice on how to move forward with their life."

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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