A Plainwell-native, and second-year student at Kalamazoo College, Wardle was murdered on October 18, 1999 by her jealous ex-boyfriend Neenef Odah, who then killed himself.
Mrs. Peterson’s students read Griffin’s novel to promote thought and discussion on the very relevant topics of gender roles and healthy relationships. The text not only describes the relationship between Wardle and Odah, but also explores the environmental and societal causes of the tragedy, as well as others like it.
“I feel that it is important for students to understand what healthy relationships look like before they go out into the world as adults. I also feel that it is important that they think about the consequences of choosing the role as a bystander to an unhealthy relationship,” said Mrs. Peterson.
The unit included a student-led seminar which involved students asking questions, finding answers, and contemplating the societal factors that contribute to unhealthy relationships. The students were then asked to consider what it means to be in a healthy relationship, as well as the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. They were encouraged to discuss gender roles, and how society believes a “real man” and “real woman” should act, as well as the implications of conforming to such stereotypes.
Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year. Griffin and the Omilians have made it their mission to educate youth about healthy relationships and gender violence. They travel to universities and high schools throughout Michigan in memory of Maggie, hoping that they can save the life of someone else’s child.
“If this book reaches just one student in an unhealthy relationship, then that is one more life that Maggie has helped to preserve- this is our mission,” said Martha Omilian.
“We knew that Maggie would someday do something great, we just never envisioned this is what it would be,” said Rick Omilian.
For more information about Wardle, and the Omilian’s work, visit rememberingmaggie.org.