During her three years at Mercer, Elliza Guta has demonstrated a passion for women's advocacy, particularly in the field of domestic violence prevention. In both her extracurricular and academic activities, Elliza has demonstrated initiative, perseverance, and determination. As a Mercer Service Scholar, Elliza helped lead a program on intimate partner violence prevention in South Africa. She worked diligently to create a comprehensive curriculum to educate primary students about healthy relationships and conducted focus groups and interviews with parents to assess the impact of cultural norms on the acceptance of relationship violence. Further, she traveled to the Republic of Georgia to conduct research about the influence of religious ideology on women's pursuit of equality. She presented her research on domestic violence and child marriage rates in the Republic of Georgia at the Southern Undergraduate Research Forum. Through her study abroad experiences and her volunteer work with a local battered women's shelter, Elliza saw first-hand the detrimental effects of abusive relationships and the need for a relationship violence prevention program in the Macon community. Consequently, Elliza has created a mentorship program for Mercer students to educate local high school students on teen dating violence.
Volunteering with Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia (CL-SH), a shelter that provides step-by-step support to victims of sexual assault and relationship violence, profoundly impacted my perspective of advocacy and victimization. During my first few months volunteering with CL-SH, I assisted with client record keeping, victim follow-up calls, and accompanied legal advocates to temporary protection order court. Each of these tasks confronted me with the reality that victims of abuse face and the importance of mentoring young people to prevent them from becoming future victims. To stop the pattern of abusive relationships, I began an initiative to reach potential victims of violence through Operation Lighthouse (OLH). Created as a collaborative effort between CL-SH and Mercer, OLH is a teen dating violence prevention program designed to educate teenagers about relationship violence. As founder and program director, I build relationships with high school students in my community to end the acceptance of relationship violence. Witnessing former victims of abuse, whether they are clients of CL-SH or volunteers with OLH, turn their difficult experiences with violence into positive stories of personal development, has inspired me to dedicate my life to this important cause.