Posts Tagged Common Ground

NAI: First Year, Fantastic Plans

NAI: First Year, Fantastic Plans

The sun shined though the huge glass windows in the Lounge at North Allegheny Intermediate High School in early November, welcoming students to their first training workshop. It’s NAI’s first year in the program (jumping on the bandwagon from NASH’s participation last year) and as the Fall leaves swirled around, signifying the change of the seasons, the students were eager to start changing the culture around mental health in their school.

Students shared a lot of laughs and had a lot of fun while learning and growing together. Students learned about mental and substance use disorders, stigma, and how to help their peers. They also got to know each other in fun games, such as Common Ground, that encourage them to build relationships with each other. Our teams act as ‘micro-cosms’ to their schools and the connections they make during the trainings will overflow onto their classmates as well, promoting social inclusion (one of our goals). The group left the first day with the education and experience to come back the following week to start planning projects to end stigma in their school.

Students were eager to share their ideas with the team and ‘dive right in’ the second training workshop. Students thought it was very important for their peers to know that many people (1:4!) are living with mental and/or substance use disorders and that they are not alone in their struggles. Another important focus was to share resources and encourage students to reach out to an adult they trust when they’re worried about themselves or someone else (another one of our goals).

We stress that students are not counselors and that weight is not theirs to bear, but there are things they can do to support a friend or family member, summed up in the acronym S.H.E.: provide support, hope, and encouragement. Youth can also continue to include students in daily activities, encourage their peers in their treatment and coping skills, and just be there for them. We don’t have to ‘fix’ things others are struggling with and it can be scary to sit in the silence, but sometimes, all someone needs is someone to sit with them in their struggle to remind them that they are not alone and that you are there for them.

The NAI team plans to implement a food and candy stand, host a 1:4 photo booth, and create a video to connect students to resources and adults to get help. Their slogan, ‘Tigers Talk about It!’ reminds their peers that #itsokaytonotbeokay and that #itsokaytogethelp. They want to normalize conversations about mental health in their school and help others on their journeys by uniting the student body in solidarity to end stigma.

We can’t wait to see your projects in action, stop by for some sweet treats, and learn about the changes you’ve made in your school with your passion and projects. Keep up the great work!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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CAPA: Stigma Stopping Stallions Return

CAPA: Stigma Stopping Stallions Return

Bright and early, the Creative and Performing Arts Academy high school students filled the library to participate in their second year of Stand Together.

Although some of these ‘unicorns’ (their mascot) had graduated, returning students and new students alike thrived in review games and discussions. The team retained a lot of the information about mental and substance use disorders and, more importantly, how to combat the stigma associated with these disorders. The group got to know each other further during our team-building activities and found ‘common ground’ with each other. Finding these similarities helped them come up with wonderful ideas to stop the stigma in their school and even talk to a peer they might not have connected with before their training.

The second workshop was even more eventful. Students participated in a Jeopardy-style review and shared their input on what they would like their peers and staff to know about the stigma surrounding mental and substance use disorders. They also had the opportunity to map out their ideas in mini-groups and piece together a line-up of powerful anti-stigma projects.

This year, the Stigma Stopping Stallions decided to revisit their art gallery idea, planning to host a space that displays not only art, but also information about mental and substance use disorders. This area will include an anonymous booth for peers and staff to post messages that could possibly be turned into an art piece in the gallery, as well. Another cool idea that will last for years to come are ‘mini-zines.’ Using the information they learned from the training, this group plans on designing and distributing a small, interactive magazine to present to their peers and faculty as an educational tool to spread the word about Stand Together and our message.

No battle is too big for these superheroes! CAPA, we’re excited to see all the creative projects you are working on this year to be implemented in your school!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Shaler HS Titans Stand Together

Shaler HS Titans Stand Together

Shaler HS was another team that lost a large group of seniors from last year and is smaller than some of our other groups, but they definitely make up for it in passion and commitment. This group is only 10 members LARGE if you measure it by the size of their hearts!

One thing very special about this group is that they bring a wealth of personal experience to the table and aren’t afraid to #talkaboutit and be vulnerable with each other. Each individual’s experience was unique and we had some great discussions about stigma, the media, and how to combat it.

Are you ready to WHAPP?! (Rather, do you know the five signs?)

Like most teams, the Shaler HS group LOVED the buzzer games, but I’d say this was pretty intense! I’m glad we had lots of laughs playing Common Ground and thoughtful responses to the scenarios to balance it out. They had such a good time laughing and learning together and were ready to start their project planning filled with excitement and drive.

By the end of the second day, the group came up with several projects to reach their peers where they are (even if it means bathroom stalls), make connections and foster relationships with staff, and host a mental health a-WEAR-ness week to rally the whole school. They were also excited to use the LEAD/JED There’s Help All Around You posters to remind students that #itsokaytonotbeokay and #itsokaytogethelp.

We’re excited to see their projects in action this spring as they increase awareness, promote social inclusion, and start forming relationships with staff to encourage reaching out for help. 10 students, 3 goals, 3 project, and 2 advisors are ready to change their school-and the world!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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WHHS Wolverines Are Working to End Stigma

WHHS Wolverines Are Working to End Stigma

Woodland Hills High School joined Stand Together for the first time this year. Their new principal, Dr. Woods, was previously at West Mifflin HS, so he was very familiar with the program and really supported bringing it to WHHS as well. We were elated to expand the program to this school and excited to work with such a great group! This was also the first time our TA-now-new-trainer Montaja took the lead in some of the activities-it was the same HS she went to! It was quite a big day for us!

 

IMG_20190128_125752This was a broad group of students, to say the least. Many of the students were in gifted programs, the group were racially and culturally diverse, and many who have relationships with mental health and substance use, whether on their own or in their communities. Because of this, the students were very passionate, vocal, and outspoken about their ideas and experiences (which really shone on the second day!)

 

These students were attentive and asked some really good questions, especially about substance use and trauma. Montaja shared her story and the group really came together during Cross the Line. We finished the day with some motivational echoing. In this activity, students ‘echo’ statements that help to re-cap the feelings and concepts of the day and stress social inclusion while solidifying the bond of the team as they ‘Stand Together’ against stigma.

 

 

Day 2 was full of hard work and fun as the students plannedMVIMG_20190213_083335 their projects and continued getting to know each other while reviewing the information. The group enjoyed Jeopardy! and, of course, the fan favorite, Common Ground, was a hit. We like to get rowdy and excited about our work! By the end of the day, the students had planned multiple versions of two activities, focusing on a socially inclusive visual (‘Stick Together’ with post-it notes) and variations on a food stand, including lemonade and tea. Lemonade has always been a hit, but tea has been pretty popular this year. Must be that pop culture reference, ‘real te(a)’. Whatever works! We’re big tea drinkers over here. 🙂 (all three Stand Together staff members drinks tea, not coffee!) It was a whirlwind day with a delay and a lot of movement, but the team came together and pulled it together with plans for some great events.

 

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Thanks, Woodland Hills, for taking this opportunity to improve the mental health environment at your school, one activity at a time!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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SciTech: Staff, Students, & Social Inclusion

SciTech: Staff, Students, & Social Inclusion

The two-hour delay on Feb. 25 didn’t stop the SciTech team from implementing their informational ‘room hop.’ In this activity, Dr. K and supportive teachers engaged in activities with students to promote relationships between students and staff and social inclusion. The team broke the students up by grades and alphabetical groups to implement the activity and ‘mix things up.’

The ‘Room Hop’ consisted of four rooms that student/staff teams rotated through discussing mental and substance use disorders. Each room/group had two to three Stand Together student advocates and a teacher monitoring the activities, videos, and Q&A sessions for their peer engagement. The hallway was also decorated with detailed posters full of facts about different mental illnesses and announcements rang overhead about the event throughout the day.

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Each room had a different activity which lasted for around eight minutes before the students ‘hopped’ to a different area. Students also received candy as an incentive/prize for participating during the activities and ALL students received cookies at the end of the rotations. We all know that treats work wonders to draw participants in! (#same) Here’s a couple of the activities:

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  • ‘Common Ground,’ Fishbowl Style: A musical chairs style game encouraged students to discover more about each other and create an atmosphere of inclusion that they could then extend to the rest of the student body. Students pulled a question from a fishbowl and had to answer it as it pertained to them in an effort to find ‘common ground’ with other students in their group. If the statement applied to that student, they would move to another chair in the circle. In this way, students had the opportunity to notice similar interests with other students.

  • Video presentation & discussion: In this room, the ST team screened a video20190225_114914 revealing some of their own personal struggles with mental illness to their classmates. At the end, the students had an open discussion/Q&A that also left their peers with tips and insight about how to stop the stigma surrounding mental and substance use disorders in their school and communities.

 

IMG_20190104_112538Each room echoed the Stand Together theme of social inclusion throughout the activities. The team also wore their #BroMeToo group shirts in solidarity for the event. This was just the first Monday that the event was to be held; each grade will also spend a day in sessions getting to know each other and learning about mental and substance use disorders and stigma. The team looks forward to presenting to their other classmates and shared some learning experience from the first event to revise the activities moving forward, navigating obstacles and increasing the impact of the event.

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IMG_20190104_105631Earlier this year, the group also had a kick-off assembly in which students participated in a free-throw contest after correctly answering questions about mental health and/or substance use disorders. The assembly was held for the entire school in the gym and students received prizes for participating and success.

 

Thank you, SciTech, for your creative ways to start the conversation around mental and substance use disorders and stigma. Keep up the great work!

 

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Propel BHHS Mixing Up Year Six

Propel BHHS Mixing Up Year Six

Propel: Braddock Hills High School is our other school that has been in the program all six years and each year they continue to surprise us with their creativity, passion, and commitment. They are mixing it up this year though: none of the students have participated in this group before. Several of the students participated at the middle school level, but it’s a whole new crop of students. New group = new ideas. It’s gonna be another great year!

 

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IMG_20190114_094715Most of the students in the group didn’t know each other before the training. We find that oftentimes, these teams form the closest bonds. As groups engage with each other in team-building  (such as Common Ground) and intimate activities (such as Cross the Line), they learn that they have more in common than separates them and that no one is alone. Although we allMVIMG_20190111_123145 come from very different backgrounds and have varied experiences, we can all relate to each other and play a part in ending stigma.

 

This year, we were incredibly impressed by the ideas the students came up. Students viewed past projects and took them a step further, amping them up and pushing them to new heights (literally: a balloon release!). I was particularly fond of the ‘Stigma is Sour; Support is Sweet’ idea; every student that engages in the activity gets a slushie, but one in four get a pack of Sour Patch Kids (my favorite candy). Needless to say, I’ll be out to visit that day. The group had some really catchy slogans, too, including: ‘Light the Way’ (paper lanterns with facts) and ‘Letting Go of Insecurities.’ The group also plans to do a mask activity and have 1:4 students put a large X on their face to symbolize the 1:4 youth affected by mental and/or substance use disorders. This is even more meaningful as the definition of stigma means a mark of disgrace. Students hope this moving visual will create a huge impact on the culture of their school by increasing awareness and social inclusion. to break down stigma and advocate for asking for help.

 

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We’re excited to see Propel BHHS projects in action later this year and are certain they’re ‘lighting the way’ to a future without stigma. Here’s to year six-let’s do this!

 

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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South Park HS Doesn’t ‘Sleep’ on their Mental Health! #staywoke

South Park HS Doesn’t ‘Sleep’ on their Mental Health! #staywoke

IMG_3404South Park High School just completed their first year of Stand Together training! Day 1 consisted of a lot of educational pieces, but the students breezed through the material because they were already so knowledgeable about mental illness, substance abuse, and stigma! They had great responses and conversations throughout day 1 about how mental illness and substance abuse affects everyone in different ways.IMG_3418

 

Day 2 consisted of project planning! Before planning, the students reviewed the material from day 1 of training through a game of Jeopardy. I was so impressed with how much information the students had retained from the following week. Later in the day the students did an activity called Common Ground. It was hilarious to see the students rushing around to try and find an empty seat and bonus – no one broke an arm! Yay!

 

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IMG_3428Once we began project planning, the students got so hyped up! They started spit balling ideas that usually a first-year school wouldn’t come up with! My team and I were extremely impressed. The students decided on introducing themselves to their student body through a donut stand during study hall periods. The slogans that the students came up with were hysterical and so clever! I cannot wait to see their projects throughout the year. South Park High School blew me away!

 

Good luck this year students. Your passion and creativity will make an enormous impact on your student body. Thank you for supporting the fight against stigma towards mental illness and substance abuse!!!

 

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Written by Lacey, trainer

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The Academy Spreads Cheer & Creates Calm!

The Academy Spreads Cheer & Creates Calm!

Stand Together went in to the Academy last fall to begin training on stigma, mental illness, and substance abuse. This was my first time facilitating a training so I was a bit nervous! As we began the day, I began to see how emotionally mature these students were and how much they truly know already about stigma. We discussed many relevant stereotypes seen in society, and I enjoyed every single student’s input. I could tell that this subject was something they were passionate about, and I knew they would have an awesome year!

 

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One activity we did that they seemed to really enjoy was the “Common Ground” activity where someone stands in the middle and says, “I see common ground with…,” then everyone who the statement applies to must get up 1and move to a different chair. Even though at times it got competitive, the students really saw how much more they have in common with others than different.

 

I returned to the Academy this spring to check out the student’s projects. I came on the day they were implementing their “Cup of Cheer” project. This entailed putting inspirational quotes onto cups and stuffing the cups with coffee, tea, a Stand Together bookmark, and a jelly bracelet that said Stand Together. The students also created a “calm down” room at their school. Inside the room was a mural that the students painted, giving hope and positivity to the students who come into the room needing a break.

 

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I am extremely proud of all the hard work these students did this past year. It was amazing to see them work together on accomplishing such an important goal, ending stigma! Thank you, the Academy! 😊

 

 

Written by Lacey, Project Trainer

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Propel MS: Courage & Hope

Propel MS: Courage & Hope

“Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

This quote was on the wall when we entered Propel: Braddock Hills Middle School and it inspired us as we prepared for our day. Courage and hope are HUGE parts of tearing down stigma and we were ready to work to instill these values in our group!

20171207_093203For many of the students in this group, it was the first time they had came in contact with each other. Sure, they may have passed each other in the hall, but many of them didn’t know each 20171207_103326other. That was definitely going to change by the end of the trainings. Students enjoyed tossing the ball around to talk about their favorite holiday memory, moving seats in Common Ground, and partnering-up to learn about the 5 Signs and empathy.20171205_111155

 

 

 

 

Although they’re long days, the students were eager to share their thoughts and ideas with the group and participate. Even if it got a little bit rowdy at times, we encourage the students to have fun, make new friends, and speak up when they have something to say-and they had a lot to say! 🙂

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After much discussion and hard work, the students came up with and presented six exciting ideas to the group. We’re still not quite sure which one they’ll choose, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be awesome!

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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