Steel Valley Middle School has been in our program for several years and their advisor Ryan always works with the students to come up with new and exciting ways to educate their peers. If you remember, last year they had a mental illness dodgeball tournament. Teams named after specific disorders had to research that specific disorder, create a poster with the information they found, and then got to participate in a glow-in-the-dark dodgeball tournament. Talk about creative and fun! This year, SVMS continued their amazing work with several larger projects and many smaller ones.
The biggest hit of the year was their photo booths. The students used several holidays and fun props to attract students to their booth and talk to them about mental and substance use disorders and stigma. This activity also promoted social inclusion by encouraging students to take photos with students they didn’t know. They created mottos for each theme to help the students remember:
Don’t be a grinch-have a heart! 1 out of 5 teens suffer from mental illness. (Christmas)
Poem: I can change the world with my own two hand. Make a better place with my own two hands. Make a kinder place with my own two hands. (MLK Day)
I wear green for someone I’m lucky to know! (St. Patrick’s Day)
The team also did several larger events. One was a ‘No One Eats Alone’ challenge, where students were encouraged to reach out to peers that were sitting by themselves at lunch or sit with someone new (see below). In addition, one of our TA’s, Jordan, came in to spoke to the school about her experiences with anxiety and to share some coping skills before their PSSA tests. The most moving project, entitled ‘I wish you knew…’ Students were given post-it notes and were instructed to right something personal that others might not know about them that has affected their lives. Some students shared mental health and substance use disorders, others shared trauma, and many students talked about feeling peer pressure and feeling alone. This was very impact for the students to see and realize that they were not alone in their struggles and they have more in common than separates them.
The students also gave away bracelets to help the students remember what they had learned at all of the events and had students sign the pledge on a large poster so they could make a visual commitment to ending stigma at their school.
Steel Valley never ceases to amaze us and we look forward to seeing what they come up with this year! See you soon!
Written by Danyelle. Project Coordinator
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