Ed Ex funds from 2014-15 for mental health are making a positive impact at NNHS

This year's recipients of mental health grants, which were funded with money raised during the 2014-15 Educational Excellence campaign, are putting the money to work at Newton North in ways that bring positive results for students. The PTSO thanks all donors and supporters! Here are some recent comments from teachers and staff.

From Lisa Goldthwaite, advisor to Gender Sexuality Alliance

The GSA wants to thank you for your generous grant to help cover some expenses for our ToBGLAD events (Transgender, Bisexual Gay Lesbian Advocacy Day).

Students (both audience members and student speakers) were highly moved to see the outpouring of support from the North community. Nearly every one of our seven presentations was booked up (in the auditorium which holds about 600 people), meaning that it is likely nearly every student in the building attended at least one presentation, over half of all teachers in the building signed up their students, and attending classes represented the full range of disciplines and grades.

Here are few comments from teachers.

  • Tracey Stewart: “Another great day at North celebrating our differences and working towards more understanding and acceptance! Such days seem more and more important and necessary these days! Thank you again for opening our hearts and minds!”
  • Ethan Peritz: “I was fortunate enough to attend the B, E, and F block assemblies, and I was so proud of how professional and informative the panels, discussions, and presentations were. Such a great day!”

I also heard a bit from the parent community that their children came home talking about the event, which extended our impact far beyond our walls. Our speakers, who included religious figures, parents, students, teachers, and outside presenters from local LGBTQ organizations, were especially blown away by the variety and depth of topics addressed.

In a year when the news has been fraught with reports undermining the progress of LGBTQ rights and creating a new fear in the hearts of the GSA and its allies, our students and teachers were especially appreciative of the richness of our program. Your continued support was essential to our success and demonstrated an underlying community support that was sorely needed.

From Allegra Atkinson and Tracey Stewart, co-advisors of the Kindness Club

Pamela Schuler was the speaker we received funds for and she was absolutely amazing. She connected very well with the students, which was evident from all of the really thoughtful questions they asked during question/answer sessions after both of her presentations. She spoke during A-Block about "her story" and because of her unique struggles with a rare and difficult disability she was able to make such an impact on the students, especially students in our special needs programs. She modeled beautifully how to help people better understand your disability with a bit of humor and a directness that makes it clear this is something she struggles with but not something that stops her from achieving her dreams. Her story was about true inclusion and embracing differences fully and completely rather than "accommodating" them.

She also led an improv workshop during B-Block where students were able to try out some jokes with people nearby and a few brave students even tried them on the stage! She also spoke to educators in the building during the lunch block about her experiences in the classroom and how we can all do a better job celebrating what makes each student unique and making them a part of the class. She was with us the whole day and also spent time with students while they painted kindness rocks! She was the complete package and really just an amazing and unique presence on the day. Thank you all so much for funding her speaking fee and for helping us bring Pamela to North!

From Joanna Timmons, MA, School Adjustment Counselor, Academic Support Program

I was granted $400 through EdEx for counseling supplies, specifically for the Academic Support program. I can't thank the committee enough for this funding; it has given me a chance to purchase a variety of therapeutic tools and resources. Students have loved the new tools, including thera-putty and kinetic sand. We have been able to do some great work on mindfulness using liquid motion bubblers. Due to such great feedback from students and Academic Support teachers about (quiet) fidgets, we will be putting together baskets of therapeutic tools and fidgets for each academic support classroom for the 2017-18 school year.

Thank you again!!

From teachers Michele Leong and Charlene Beh

Thank you again for the generous funding to support our Asian American Affinity group for girls in the senior class. We met four times this year, and with the funding we received, we were able to enhance the programming we did for the students. On average, we had 25 students come each time, and delved into issues of identity, mental health, Asian American experiences, generation gap, to name a few. At our final meeting, we were able to get qualitative data from the girls, which we shared with our principal. The girls spoke powerfully and eloquently about their need for support as Asian American females in Newton Public Schools, and reflected about how meaningful it was for them to have such an affinity group their senior year. They also encouraged Charlene and me to continue doing this work with next year's group of Asian American girls in the senior class. Many thanks!

From Beth O'Brien, M.Ed., LMHC, School Adjustment Counselor, Academic Support Program

“The soft putty and kinetic sand has helped me reduce stress and increases my focus during conversation.” 12th grader

“I really love the kinetic sand. The combination of the sand and talking to Mrs. O’Brien really helped me on a day when I was feeling really anxious and depressed. It helped ground me and give me something to do. I hardly have not been able to put it down and am thinking of buying my own.” 11th grader

“The therapy putty has decreased my stress and anxiety a lot. I use it when I’m feeling nervous, upset, or angry. I can really let my anger out by pulling and squishing it. I purchased my own set because they really helped me out and usually calm me down.” 9th grader

“I like the therapy putty because it keeps my hands busy and it helps lower my stress and anxiety about a test or family stuff that is going on.” 9th grader

We were able to purchase two Heartmath sensors with the Ed Ex funding which we have used with various students in the academic support program as well as students in the STEP Program (students on the Autism spectrum, non-verbal LD). These sensors work with an app called Inner Balance and allow students to shift from feeling emotionally stressed to finding balance and coherence. Their heart rate is monitored while they are practicing deep breathing and they can see concrete results after each session. Students have reported feeling calmer and more relaxed after using inner balance.

Thank you!

From Prevention/Intervention Counselor Alison Malkin

Thank you so much for giving me funds for the new Drug Identification Kit. I’ve loved having it and it has proven to be a resource that offers a strong visual for beginning discussions. I have shown it on Main Street and in my office, with individual students, small groups, and students passing by. Inevitably, questions are raised and I believe most students leave having learned something they hadn’t realized they didn’t know.

The Kit is a true talking point and some of the questions and comments include: “Why is there a can of beer? Alcohol isn’t a drug, is it?” “My sister uses that [pointing to a substance]. Is it dangerous?” “What if I see friends doing that…what do I do?” “My mother drinks too much. Can I talk to you without her knowing?” “How do I stop my best friend from her addiction?”

Some students have brought up sensitive questions and concerns more quickly than they might have done otherwise. The Kit is an extremely useful tool and I so appreciate your willingness to purchase it for me and for NNHS.