Steel Valley Middle School was HARD AT WORK standing up against stigma and promoting unity, togetherness, and inclusion the past few months with their Stand Together Projects. Their theme this year was Under Construction: Breaking Down Barriers. The students facilitated activities that hoped to increase education and awareness of mental illness and stigma, but also work together to engage all students in various activities. In addition, students cross-participated in events with the high school group to gain cohesiveness as a community.
In December, 38 students competed against other ST members in both the middle and high schools in a School SWAP. During this event, the middle school students were paired with high school students and completed various challenges with participation from the rest of the student body throughout the day. MS students tagged along with HS students in the morning, and then vice versa in the afternoon. Along the way, the ‘challenges’ had to be signed-off on by a teacher, staff member, or counselor. ‘Challenges’ included talking about Stand Together, sitting with someone they didn’t know at lunch, posting anti-stigma messages on their social media accounts, and requesting information about resources from the school guidance counselor.
Over the past several months, students also created QR codes and quizlets with interesting information and facts on the different types of mental illnesses and placed them on STAHL newsletters that were posted in the bathrooms every month. Announcements were made and flyers were also plastered all over the school for their cause.
The students’ main project was planning and orchestrating a Glow in the Dark dodge ball tournament for the entire student body on Thursday, February 16. 130 students formed teamed of mixed grade levels and decorated t-shirts with their team’s mental health condition, definition/characteristics/statistics, and places to get help. Teams also created posters with additional information for the event. The winning team members received gift cards. Free hot chocolate was served at their Kindness Kafe and wrist bands were given out to participants reminding them of the “Breaking Down Barriers” message Stand Together wants to instill within the school. “It was a great time,” said Katie Iwaniuk- 8th grade Stand Together member. “Everyone had fun and we were able to spread our message while raising awareness.” Four members of the high school Stand Together team even volunteered to referee the event!
Next, Stand Together will be creating a “Breaking Down Barriers” mural in the middle school with the help of the Art department. Sixty canvases will decorate a stairwell with our message of acceptance & community. Can’t wait to see them!