Rio Rancho High School's Student To Employment Program donated $500 to Haven House, Sandoval County's only domestic violence shelter, on December 22.

STEP is made up of special education students and helps students transition from school to the "adult world" according to Trudy Adams, special education teacher at RRHS. Since 2009, STEP has teamed up with Haven House to put on a vigil every October as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"Statistics show that people with disabilities tend to be more likely to be victims of violence and abuse," Adams said.

Four years ago, Adams called with the idea to host a domestic violence vigil at Rio Rancho High, Haven House Executive Director Diane Torrance said. With support from the school, the vigil was a success.

Earlier this year, Megann Zeigler, former RRHS special education teacher, donated more than 200 dolls to STEP. The students attempted to sell the dolls at a silent auction during this year's vigil, but were not very successful.

"It wasn't the right venue," Adams said.

The students came up with another plan, and for two weeks following the vigil they spent their lunch breaks selling the dolls to teachers, staff members and other students; by the second Friday, they had reached their $500 goal.

They voted to have the entire amount donated to Haven House.

During the week of the vigil, the students promoted domestic violence awareness by handing out red flags to other students; "jealousy," "control" and other warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship were written on the flags, according to Adams.

"They learn to not just give back monetarily, but by actually doing things," Adams said.

The students in STEP also operate the snack cart, which is a "true retail experience," according to Adams. "The interaction teaches them how to deal with customers."

:Apart from the $500 check, more than 75 of the unsold dolls were donated to Haven House.

"We don't refuse anything that is given to us," Spanish Case Manager Ocaris Gutierrez said.

State funding for the shelter was substantially lower this year, and it's expected to drop more in 2011, so the donations are a big help, according to Torrance.

This holiday season, donations have come from a variety of places - clubs and organizations including the Moms Club and Thimbleweeds Quilters, local and national businesses including the Body Shop and Hewlett-Packard, the Bikes for Tykes drive, and numerous churches.

Intel employees donated Christmas gifts for 35 families and one $100 Visa card.

"Whether you work in domestic violence or you volunteer, it gets you by the heart," Adams said.