Posts Tagged project planning

Dice Dragons: Quality over Quantity!

Dice Dragons: Quality over Quantity!

Mid-October, as the leaves were falling and the weather was changing, Allderdice HS (PPS) Dragons linked up for their Stand Together training. Dice is no stranger to the project, however with the graduation of their upper-class members, new faces graced the group, wowing us with how much information they retained about mental health and substance use disorders.

This group might be small, but they are MIGHTY! Students participated fully in the activities during the trainings and helped their teammates in review trivia games. Not only did they open up about their own experiences, they also discovered how much they had in common.

The project ideas were flowing with no shortage of creativity. Stand Together students brain-stormed many ideas through-out the workshops, from food events to fair days to staff-student activities. One idea the group is excited to work on is a 1:4 day by bringing mental health and substance use awareness to their fellow classmates; they plan to use visuals in their hallways and stairwells on all the different floors to help students understand the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders. Each level will provide information about a specific disorder. They also want to connect with the teachers and staff this year and use their ‘truth booth’ idea to help create a safe space for everyone, including students and adults, to communicate more effectively. At the end of the day, the group was ready to finalize their meeting times so they could get started putting their plans into action.

Dice Dragons are here to stay to ‘flush the stigma away!’ (Project preview?!) They may be small, but they’ve got heart! Here’s to another exciting year of changing their school culture!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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OC Eagles Soar over Stigma

OC Eagles Soar over Stigma

Earlier in October the Stand Together team at Oakland Catholic HS met to learn more about mental and substance use disorders, how to help, and how to stop stigma. This is OC’s second year in the program and they are ready to come back and build on the progress they’ve made with their scrunchies against stigma and cookies that crumbled away stigma by promoting education and awareness. One student remarked: ‘Some of my friends deal with mental health issues and they were more open to talk about it at school because of the projects that the club put together.’ They are definitely off to a good start!

This team has great passion and urgency to advocate for change in their schools and communities. Students asked though-provoking and introspective questions during the trainings and had such a good time engaging in the games and activities while learning about the topics and each other. By the end of the second day, the group had the education, experience, and group cohesion to start thinking about their projects.

The team had so much enthusiasm on the second day and couldn’t wait to start tossing out ideas and planning their projects. The group had so many ideas it was hard to narrow it down, but by the end of the day they decided to focus on forming relationships with staff and increasing awareness of the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders and that no one is alone in their struggles. The group wants to plan an active discussion between the team and staff/faculty and produce a video that includes students and staff sharing their own personal experiences.

The students still want to explore creating a ‘truth booth’ styled project, but had so many suggestions, they weren’t sure which way to go! We form bonds and increase social inclusion when we connect with each other and realize that we have more in common than we think. ‘Truth booth’ projects really help individuals see these concepts visually and in action.

At the end of the day, the group couldn’t wait to get started finalizing their plans and start implementing their projects in their school. They’re excited to see the changes they will be making in their school environment and culture and make strides in ‘soaring over stigma’ in their community.

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Throwback Thursday: WMHS Titans Training 2019

Throwback Thursday: WMHS Titans Training 2019

Earlier this month, our team headed to West Mifflin Area High School to train their students. WMHS is no stranger to Stand Together-the program is 7 years young and West Mifflin has been with us from the beginning. Although the group members and numbers have changed over the years (at one point they had 74 on the team!), their passion, commitment, and leadership has never wavered.

The first day of training is always an interesting time because a lot of the students don’t know each other. WMHS, like many of our schools, uses an application process to select their students. Students are selected for their interest in mental health and decreasing stigma and their desire to enact change. Because any one can apply and the applications are reviewed anonymously, there’s guaranteed to be a very diverse group of students and this year was no different. There were members from all areas of the student body, students with leadership potential, and even some youth that have been personally connected with mental health and substance use disorders. We consider this a privilege and a valuable experience that adds to the depth of our teams.

Cross the Line

This day was filled with fun activities, new friendships, laughter, and even some tears. The students explored the types of mental disorders and substances, brainstormed how to help peers who are struggling, and learned more about each other. Students connected through shared experiences and left the day empowered to address the stigma in their schools.

If the first day was full of information, the second day was packed with the students’ project ideas! Small groups came up with dozens of suggestions and additions jumped back and forth as they built on the foundations of vague ideas and dreams of a world without stigma. Students came up with ideas to increase education and awareness, promote social inclusion, and build relationships with staff and faculty so that students felt comfortable reaching out to an adult they trusted when they were worried about themselves or someone else. By the end of the day, they had at least six solid plans, including mental health a-WEAR-ness events with pjs, socks, and ribbons, reviving the infamous glo-dance, and even a unique take on meeting students where they are. (Spoiler alert: they’re putting something on the ground so students look up (literally) to support and hopeful messages! << We can’t wait to see this one!)

All in all our team had an amazing couple of days with this group. They always bring their A-game and we know they’ll engage their peers in creative and educational ways all year-long. Thanks for another great training, WMHS! We’ll be out to see your projects soon!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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North Hills HS Kicks off the Year-Literally!

North Hills HS Kicks off the Year-Literally!

Usually my first post for a school is just about how much fun we had and how impressed I was with their training, but North Hills has really jumped-in and hit the ground running. Before they even had their training, they had two events on the calendar! With a whole team of advisors and a slew of supporters (including the new principal that was previously at West Allegheny, another one of our schools), they’re already creating waves and setting the stage for their other projects.

On Friday the 13th, the student section roared as the team kicked-off – and not just the football team! The announcer shared information about the group and facts, tore-up huge posters with stigmatizing words, and encouraged each other to Stand Together Against Stigma. What an impactful visual!

With this exciting event under their belt, the team was ready to start their training workshops. Our TA, Jordan, is a NHHS alum and was so excited to be back at her alma mater-she even attended the game that past weekend (and was already impressed!). As with most of our teams (we start pretty early in the morning), they were quiet to start, but soon found their voice. The students got really competitive with WHAPP! and the How to Be Helpful to Peers buzzer games and were moved by Jordan’s recovery story. They learned a lot about each other from Cross the Line and there was definitely a feeling of unity from the group, even as we left the first day.

The second workshop kept the momentum going as students had already started working on one of their projects. I stopped by on the following Friday to stop by as they processed their ideas-for an event that would be held the day immediately after their second training! Student leaders had already started planning and the second day flew by as we finalized details on student presentations to their Freshman and Sophomore English classes. Groups created ice-breakers, a Kahoot!, and a Where Do You Stand? activity that challenged students perceptions about mental and substance use disorders. We talked about some other projects, but spent most of the day planning and rehearsing for the next day-when they’d stand up in from of small groups of their peers and Stand Together against stigma!

The students’ first project was a great success! Students participated in the activities and learned a lot. The teachers will also be using this information in their own classes to talk and write about mental health. The impact of Stand Together has already gone well beyond the group: first at the football game, the students during English classes, and the assistant principal and one of the school police officers even joined in the workshops. Students were eagers to attack the stigma in their school. I don’t know where they’re going from here, but I can’t wait to see what else they come up with for this year! See you soon!

-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. ūüôā (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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Linton MS: Snacks Against Stigma

Linton MS: Snacks Against Stigma

Linton Middle School in Penn Hills returns for its second year. Lead by advisor, Ms. Olivis, the team was so excited to begin their trainings and participate again-the students were asking Ms. Olivis for months when it was time to start Stand Together again! As you can imagine, this group was ready to jump in to the workshops and start working together to stop stigma at their school.

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School is hard for youth in the mornings and it took the group a little while to warm up. We do physical activities that not only engage their bodies (which helps students learn), but also their brains-each activity has a purpose. In this blog’s feature, students were learning about the signs and IMG_20190115_120957symptoms of behavioral health disorders and some of the most prevalent conditions in youth. We engage the students in a breath-holding contest so that they can experience (on a minor scale) what it might feel like to have anxiety or a panic attack. We explain that this can be a very scary thing and could affect their ability to concentrate on schoolwork, hang out with friends, or complete daily activities. Students also learn that even though they could take a breath any time they wanted to, individuals with these disorders can’t just ‘snap out of it;’ they need help and support. Help and support were definitely plentiful in the room as students self-disclosed some of their difficult experiences and realized that they have more in common than separates them. The students finished out the first day with something we call Motivational Echoing, in which students¬†gather as one to emphasize support, hope, and unity by repeating phrases from the trainer. These include statements such as: ‘I am not alone,’ ‘I am love,’ ‘It’s okay to not be okay,’ ‘It’s okay to get help,’ ‘I can help others get help,’ and, most importantly, ‘We’re in this together.’ Check out this clip:

 

 

Many of the students returned from last year, but there were justMVIMG_20190122_123921 as many new faces. One of my favorite things is to notice how much the students grow and mature from year to year, especially in middle school. This group was no exception. Last year the team engaged their peers in a lemonade stand, plastered posters all across the school, and gave away hot cocoa. They created three fun, new snack give-aways to educate their peers about mental and substance use disorders and decrease the stigma associated with them in their school. Food always works to attract attention and the students chose items they knew would draw their peers: slushies, Hot Cheetos, and popcorn. They’re slogans were even better: ‘It’s cool to talk-stigma is not’ (slushies), ‘Burn out Stigma’ (Hot Cheetos), and ‘Pop Away Stigma.’ Popcorn stands and stair decorating seem to be very popular this year-which is fine by me, because popcorn is one of, if not, my favorite foods! Food is the way to the heart, or so I’ve heard. These students are definitely going to be challenging thought, changing attitudes, and redirecting behaviors to make their school a more welcoming environment for everyone, whether or not they are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder.

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We can’t wait to hear more about Linton’s project plans and come out for a visit to grab a slushie or some Hot Cheetos and witness the team changing minds and changing hearts, all in an effort to end stigma. Thanks for standing up and speaking out against stigma, Linton! We’ll see you soon!

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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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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Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic is our first private high school and we are so excited to have this group join us this year. The school jumped at the opportunity to join our team after a presentation at a regional Student Assistant Program meeting. (SAP is made up of staff members at schools that work to improve student’s education, whether it be mentally, physically, or academically.) It’s hard to believe I first spoke with them almost a year ago today! OC leadership was also quick to schedule a Youth Mental Health First Aid training for their staff before school started to educate their faculty even before Stand Together started. Their interest in improving the mental health environment for their students is inspiring and refreshing. Mental health matters!

 

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IMG_20181205_105714These girls were a blast to work with! Although chatty at times (it was a group of teenage girls!), their enthusiasm didn’t end. All the students were fully committed to the program and activities. They had a lot of great questions and really came together as a group by the end of the first day. It was even more meaningful for the students that our assistant for the day, Julianna, went to OC herself. We laughed¬†a lot, as you can see from all the pictures! And even though we had a lot of fun, the group was determined and passionate as they ‘stand together’ to stop stigma.

 

The team came up with so many good ideas on the second dayIMG_20181205_101539 that it was really difficult¬†to narrow it down to three. From scrunchies, raffles, decorations, and so many other ideas, the group was adamant about educating their peers, spreading awareness, and breaking down social barriers, especially when it comes to seeking treatment. Of course, they had great slogans, too: ‘Stairways Against Stigma’ and ‘Elevators for Awareness’ were just a few they came up with. The students really wanted to focus this year on helping their peers realize that there are a lot of people that struggle with these issues, it’s okay to not be okay, and they’re not alone; people care, it’s okay to get help, and it¬†can get better. These students warmed my heart with their wisdom and dedication to decreasing the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders.

 

We’re proud to work with OC this year and we’re certain they’re going to make a big impact in their school with their creative activities and eye-catching marketing. Between the Stand Together team and faculty Mental Health First Aid-ers, they’re off to a great start. You go, girls!

 

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written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler Area Middle School is joining their high school counterparts in Stand Together this year to take action against stigma. Mr. Lisowski & Ms. Coleman’s crew was large and mighty and they came up with some incredibly creative projects for this year. Students are focusing on increasing education and awareness as well as social inclusion in fun activities for their peers during lunch.

 

¬†Stand Together workshops cram a lot of information into one day and sometimes it can be difficult to absorb it all, so we review several times throughout the day, as well as provide takeaways for the students. We also engage the students in meaningful activities that help them remember the concepts while having fun, too. For example, we have all the students stand up and the trainer counts off by four. The first three students can sit while the fourth remains standing. Once we have gone around the room, the students can visualize the ratio of students that have a mental or substance use disorder (1:4). Another activity, Ships & Sailors, is a game of elimination in which students must follow directions and form groups of a specific number in order to stay in the game. Afterwards, we discuss what it was like to be ‘eliminated,’ excluded, and ‘betrayed.’ This is what stigma feels like. To remember the five most common signs of mental and substance use disorders, we have the students repeat them back to each other and give each other a ‘high-five.’ (Did you know physical action helps your brain remember things?)

 

Another important piece of our trainings is learning how toIMG_20181206_091323 respond when you recognize those signs in someone¬†you know. We emphasize that the students are not professionals, but there are still things they can do to help. That’s where the acronym S.H.E. comes in: support, hope, and encouragement. Students can be there for their friends that are struggling, hold hope for them when they cannot do so for themselves, and encourage them to talk to an adult/get professional treatment. We also realize that youth can identify concerns in family members as well. In the clip below, students review a scenario in which a student’s aunt is demonstrating signs of a mental illness. The students share how they would approach that individual, what they would say, and what they would do.

 

 

This year, the group has planned three unique projects to engage their peers. In January, students will ‘Band Together’ Against Stigma by answering questions about mental and substance use disorders and receiving a wristband to represent the 1:4 individuals that are affected by these conditions. Students are also using¬†a winter theme (and cookies!) for students to share their personal experiences with mental and/or substance use disorders. Sharing our stories IMG_20181127_110112helps decrease stigma by promoting awareness and increasing social inclusion; students find that they are not alone in their struggles and they have more in common than what separates them. Lasly, the students are planning another cookie give-away to dispel the myths about these disorders and/or perform a socially inclusive act. This activity plays on the game, “Truth or Dare.” Students will have to decide whether a statement is a fact and/or do something to¬†get to know someone new.

 

We’re excited to see these projects over the course of this year-and get some cookies while we’re at it! I have to say Snickerdoodles are a pretty underrated cookie, so I’m excited to see these treats teach and encourage other students to talk about mental and substance use disorders as they ‘Band Together’ against stigma.

 

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written by Danyelle, coordinator

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CAPA’s Stallions are Stopping Stigma (S3)

CAPA’s Stallions are Stopping Stigma (S3)

The Creative and Performing Arts Academy (PPS) is one of our 10 (!) new schools for this year. And they’re¬†serious about stopping stigma. So serious, that they requested to take a ‘serious’ photo of their group at the end! At any rate, mental health and stigma¬†are serious issues-all the more reason we need to¬†start talking about them and¬†stop the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders.

 

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MVIMG_20181128_090611This year we added a more extensive section on substance use disorders. Students have had a lot of questions and substance use disorders often occur with and/or because of mental health conditions. In addition, as the ‘opioid epidemic’ comes to the forefront and more students are being affected by the use of heroin and ‘pain killers,’ it was important that our training provided much needed information to dispel myths, share information, and help youth address the specific stigmas attached to these disorders. Stigma is so pervasive and perpetuates the shame that comes from receiving treatment for both mental and substance use disorders, but these numbers continue to rise, especially youth using¬†electronic vapor products and marijuana. It’s important to be knowledgeable and aware of not only these disorders, but also the resources available and how to help someone that may be struggling with a mental and/or substance use disorder.

 

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Although one wouldn’t think it, the¬†wrap-up on the first day is an important¬†piece of the training workshops. After hearing from one of our team members (TA Montaja-she majored in Musical Theater!), Cross the Line, and what usually ends up being a very vulnerable, intimate, intense discussion, students take a break and come back to one of our last activities: Motivational Echoing. It might sounds like a simple activity, students come back together to solidify and personalize the truths we’ve discussed through the day:

  • Mental & substance use disorders are not my fault.

  • I am not alone.IMG_20181128_125724

  • I am loved.

  • It’s okay to not be okay.

  • It’s okay to get help.

  • I can help others get help.

  • We’re in this together.

Students leave the day feeling heard, valued, inspired, and equipped with the tools and experiences they need to influence their peers and design and implement projects to create change in their school cultures. The knowledge and awareness, feelings of social inclusion, and relationships with advisors/supporting staff pour out onto their peers and faculty. Change happens by confronting myths, changing attitudes, and promoting help-seeking and socially inclusive behaviors. The students at CAPA were no exception. They were exceptionally passionate and motivated to attack stigma head-on in fun, creative, and innovative activities.

 

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By the end of the second day, the students at CAPA had come up with FOUR solid projects, including Stigma Stopping Stallions (S3) educational presentations, The Real Tea stand to discuss myths and facts, and a Living Wall, a version of a ‘truth booth’ in which students can visualize the impact mental and substance use disorders have on their peers, staff/faculty, families, and the community. The team will also hold an art gallery for students to create and submit original works inspired by mental health experiences. They will be displayed for the school and public.¬†CAPA’s team is well on their way to using their ‘creative’ talents to make meaningful changes in their school!

We look forward to seeing CAPA’s projects in action and watching the students make a difference in the lives of those around them as they¬†stand together against stigma.

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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