Posts Tagged West Mifflin

Hooray for High School! Recognition Event 2018

Hooray for High School! Recognition Event 2018

Stand Together students had another phenomenal year and our team couldn’t wait to celebrate with and recognize them for all of their hard work to end stigma in their schools! I had the pleasure of working with many of our high schools this year and they blew me away with their passion, commitment, and courage.

 

This year’s projects were innovative, creative, and incredibly impactful. We trained nine high schools, seven completed projects, and six participated in the recognition event. Here’s what the students designed and implemented at their schools this year:

 

3The Academy Charter School: The Academy chose a different approach to decreasing stigma in their school by creating a ‘safe space’ for students who might be struggling with something. This room was staffed by faculty and had many coping techniques available, including quiet music, comfy chairs, sensory objects, and inspirational MH images. In addition, the students promoted education and self-care with the faculty by giving out cups with coffee/tea, an awareness wristband, and a bookmark with the ST anti-stigma pledge on it. In working with the faculty, they hoped to increase their knowledge and change attitudes that would hopefully filter down to the students.

 

Taylor Allderdice High School (PPS): The students at Allderdice created and presented a mini-presentation about mental health and stigma to the freshman Civics classes. In addition, they worked with the art department to create a dragon (their mascot) painting. Students signed flames agreeing to ‘breath fire on stigma.’ This mural will remain a permanent fixture at the school signifying their solidarity in the fight against stigma. The Stand Together team finished their year with an 1:4 assembly, in which mental health and stigma was reviewed and the students were rewarded by pie-ing four teachers in the face for their participation in the year’s activities.

 

Propel-Braddock Hills High School: Propel HS has been in Stand Together for all five years! Switching things up from their typical ‘Black Out Stigma’ theme, this year the Stand Together students chose ‘BLOCK Out Stigma.‘ This theme utilized larger-than-life lego blocks for their projects that addressed all three of Stand Together’s goals: 1) ‘Block’ Stigma (education/awareness); 2) ‘Build’ Relationships (social inclusion); and 3) ‘Lego’ of Fear (ask-an-adult).  Students did activities within their ‘crews’ (like homeroom) and during a Block Party during lunch. (All those puns!) PBHHS always comes up with out-of-the-box ideas that really get the student body interested and involved in Stand Together at their school.

 

 

Science & Technology Academy: Although SciTech’s group was small, they were mighty! Students were given cups of Lemonade for Change that had mental health facts on them. The team used the lemonade as an incentive to get their peers to visit their booth and learn about mental health in a casual environment. The team also made posters that were shared around the school to remind the students of what they had learned during the activities. They mentioned they could definitely see an impact with their students and that students were very receptive and interested in what they had to say. Sounds like a success!

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 Shaler Area High School: Although it was their first year in Stand Together, Shaler did a great job incorporating two goals into two projects. DuringMaker:L,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y lunch, the team had students ‘Take a Bite out of Stigma by reading facts about mental health and substance use disorders and stigma (education/awareness) before receiving a cookie. Students also participated in a social inclusion‘No One is Alone.‘ Several prompts were provided on a large poster and students had color-coded post-it notes to anonymously respond to the statements if they applied to themselves or someone they know. These statements included such as: I have been personally affected by a mental illnessI have been personally affected by substance useI’ve felt excluded or disadvantaged. Students also received a ‘sucker to stop stigma.’ This project was incredibly moving; the post-its filled the entire poster and it was powerful to see so many students being honest about their struggles, but also have the visual to see that they are never alone in what they’re going through.

 

West Allegheny High School: A first-year school like Shaler, West A. did fantastic projects that were presented the information in fun, free food projects that were meaningful and memorable. Students not only engaged in ‘food give-aways‘ (including cookies, HerSHEy kisses, and gum>>check out their other blog for the great slogans!), but also began and ended their project season with assemblies for the student body. The first included an overview of Stand Together and mental health and the last had students participate in a ‘Mental Health Jeopardy.’ Trainer Danyelle also shared her recovery story for the group. The team remarked that students really enjoyed the activities and are excited to continue participating in Stand Together next year.

 

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I Am muralWest Mifflin Area High School: This is also WMHS’s fifth year with Stand Together. This year’s projects included an ‘I am…’ reflective mural, their annual Glow Dance so spread awareness about mental health and substance use disorders and suicide, and a Mental Health Fair, featuring a Celebrity Art Gallery, depicting and describing celebrities that are affected safe haven graphicby MH/SUD. Students have promoted social inclusion in a Worry Monster, in which students would right down a struggle with anxiety and students could see that they are not alone ; the team also responded to these with uplifting messages of encouragement and hope. In addition, the school’s Safe Haven’ program promotes relationships with adults by creating ‘safe classrooms’ and ‘safe teachers’ that are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and are willing and able to help students get the help they need.

 

Lacey and I are incredibly proud of all of our high schools and we look forward to working with you again next year! If you want to see more of these amazing projects, check out our YouTube Playlist, the individual school blogs, and the full-length Stand Together Student Project Reel 2018 below:

 

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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West Mifflin High School: Breaking the Silence

West Mifflin High School: Breaking the Silence

West Mifflin High School has been ‘breaking the silence’ around mental health and substance use disorders and stigma for the past five years and have been doing a great job changing the culture of their school regarding mental health. This year they continue to deliver. Mr. Mike had the chance to visit WMAHS for their Break the Silence day last Friday, January 26. Let’s #talkaboutit!

 

Insta image 1For the last few years, WMAHS has been having a Break the Silence day, a peer-to-peer event at which the Stand Together students hold a ‘fair’ in Screenshot_20180128-083830their common area during lunch to promote education, awareness, and social inclusion and decrease stigma. Students can visit various stations that have been set-up to provide information and help the student’s understand more about mental health, coping skills, and resources, both in the school and the community.

 

The group will also hold a Mental Health Art Gallery in the spring, but at this event, senior Hayley created over a dozen posters focusing on mental health in celebrities. This has been a passion project for Hayley, as she has been in the group for four years and will be focusing on art next year in college. Great job, Hayley!

 

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In addition, another senior, Trinity, wrote and produced a short video to share with her peers. She reached out to teachers and even the school nurse to get their feedback. Over 40 educators and 20 students are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and are equipped to be ‘first responders’ when other students at the school may be experiencing a mental health concern or crisis. Trinity hopes to encourage her peers to become more aware and make proactive efforts to combat the stigma in their school.

 

 

The entire group did a phenomenal job presenting mental health and substance use disorders in a more positive light and are clearly making an impact in the lives of the students in their school, whether they are changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or helping students receive the resources and support they need to aid in their mental health. Thanks for being five-year members of the Stand Together mental health revolution-you guys rock! You just don’t stop amazing us!

 

-Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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West Mifflin Middle School: Melting away stigma one hot cocoa at a time!

West Mifflin Middle School: Melting away stigma one hot cocoa at a time!

On December 11th, I attended West Mifflin Middle School’s 6th grade hot cocoa stand. The goal of this project was to educate their fellow peers on mental illness and substance abuse. To receive a hot cocoa, a student had to sign the Stand Together pledge and read aloud a fact related to mental illness and/or substance abuse. Many students came up to participate and were interested in what the ST group was doing.

 

2When it came to organization, the students worked together to come up with a process that made serving the hot cocoa go smoothly. Some of the5 students mixed up the hot cocoa, while others put marshmallows on top, and the rest of the group helped with the signing of the pledge. It was impressive to see the 6th graders all work together and make sure that everyone was involved. Some of the students even stayed late to make hot cocoa for students who didn’t get a chance to come up and get some!

 

After the lunch bell rang and it was time to go, the Stand Together group helped their advisor, Ms. Roman, clean up the area which they worked in. Students wiped down the tables, packaged up supplies, and carried items back to their proper location.

 

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All in all, the 6th grade Stand Together hot cocoa stand was a success, and even though there were a few hiccups in the road, they worked together as a team to try and end stigma in their school! Great job West Mifflin Middle School 6th graders!

 

Written by Lacey, Project Trainer

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Impressive & Incredible: The Impact of WMMS

Impressive & Incredible: The Impact of WMMS

I must admit, I was extremely nervous walking into West Mifflin Middle School on September 19th. It was my first time ever giving a training with Stand Together and I wanted to make sure tDSCN0806hat the students received the best training possible.

After we started with a game of Ships’n’Sailors, I knew this group of kids would be fun to work with. The students were so enthusiastic during the activity and you could really see them trying to engage with all their fellow peers. When we reviewed the purpose of this activity and how it relates to the stigma given to people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, they were spot on with their responses! I was so impressed!

20170920_083431Some of the students were returning members from the previous year and some were brand spankin’ new, but they all displayed such a large knowledge on mental illness and substance use, which showed me how big of an impact their Stand Together group is having on their school as a whole. Once we jumped into the material, I was blown away with the students answers and participation level. Time flew by that before I knew it, we were ready for lunch!

In one of the final activities of the day, the students came together and displayed such great empathy during one of our final activities. Hearing the students talk about issues dear to their hearts and seeing how their peers were there to listen and support them was incredible. At the end of day 1, I was so excited to start project planning with the students. They displayed such a level of eagerness to get started; it was inspiring!

On day 2 we began the project planning process! The students had so many great ideas and it was especially neat to see them build onto projects they had done in the past few years. By the end of the day, the students decided on doing a hot chocolate stand to spread awareness and educate their peers on mental illness and substance abuse. To do this, they would add facts to the cups of the hot chocolate! They also wanted to use this same concept but instead of having hot chocolate, they would have donuts. The other activity they decided on doing was their signature Color Run, which aims to help reduce stigma against mental illness by going out into the community and educating others on what mental illness is and what are some examples of a mental illness.

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By the end of day 2, I was so impressed by this elite group of students and I could not wait to see what their final projects looked like! West Mifflin Middle School is lead by their fearless leader, Ms. Roman, who is there for the students every step of the way.

Great job, West Mifflin Middle!!!!

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(Written by Lacey, trainer)

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Stand-ing Together Against Stigma 5-Years Strong! WMHS

Stand-ing Together Against Stigma 5-Years Strong! WMHS

20170914_125932This year’s WMHS Stand Together club has 76 (!!!) students and we definitely started the year off right! Their fearless leader, Ms. Rowe, has been advising this group for the past 5 years and is deeply passionate and invested in this program. She’s even presenting at a national conference in DC with our staff (Danyelle & Mr. Mike)! DSCN0784

We know that our brains and bodies are connected, so what better way to start the day than with a physical activity?! Ships & Sailors is always a favorite of the students, even though they comment that they’re too old to be getting on the floor! This activity teaches students about isolation and exclusion in preparation to discuss stigma and how it feels to be left out or pushed aside from a group.

Students spend a lot of time learning about mental illness and stigma and challenging some of the myths and stereotypes associated with behavioral health conditions. The first goal of Stand Together is to educate and increase awareness. Our team ‘teaches’ the students and they, in turn, teach their peers. We all know teenagers are more likely to listen to each other than adults, so this peer-to-peer piece is crucial in their project implementation!

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Students also spend a lot of time getting to know each other and realizing that they have more in common than they do that separates them, you’re never alone, and w20170914_100957e share the same struggles, successes, hopes, and dreams. They also come DSCN0764to realize that individuals with a mental health condition are people-first, who just happen to have an illness. Montaja shared her inspiring story of recovery and the group was inspired by her courage. Sharing our stories stops stigma and brings us together. The more we communicate, the more we connect, and the more genuine relationships develop, which ultimately end up helping others feel comfortable to reach out when they’re worried about themselves or someone else.

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By the end of the second day, students came up with many project ideas for the next year focusing on our three goals. Some of these included:

1) Educate/Awareness: ‘Big Picture’ collage, fact/s/feels sheets

2) Social Inclusion: Promoting Inclusion workshop, ice cream sundae bar, mask dance

3) Ask-an-Adult: Teacher Twin Day, pen pals, and staff/student field day

The students left the workshops excited to start taking action again stigma in their school-and ended with selfies with Montaja! Can’t wait to see what they come up with this year!

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Recognition Event 2017

Recognition Event 2017

Words cannot express what an amazing experience we had on Wednesday, May 10 celebrating our Stand Together schools’ accomplishments this past year. Over 150 students and 100 supporters attended this years’ event at the Heinz History Center. All eight of our project completing schools were able to attend in some fashion and some even brought guests, give-a-ways, and goodies to share.

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The chairs were full and the plaques were ready to be given out! After a brief introduction, the program began!

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Our featured speaker, Dese’Rae Stage, shared her moving recovery story and the students found hope and inspiration in her words. Many students could relate to her on a personal level and all the participants enjoyed viewing her work, Live Through This, and learning about other suicide survivors stories.

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All of our schools did a fantastic job presenting their projects and demonstrating their mental health expertise and changes in school culture.

Here’s what each school came up with:

Propel: Braddock Hills High School’s projects were a HUGE hit. Their creativity and innovation always inspire other groups to take risks with their projects and think outside the box. This year, the students manufactured a ‘Thought Bubble’ that they used to invite their peers to stop stigma and increase social inclusion by sharing things that they struggled with, things that helped them cope with life’s stress, and things that inspired them. Students also created a life-size board game similar to Chutes & Ladders, in which participants scaled ladders when they supported a friend or talked about mental health, but moved down the slides when they used stigmatizing language or ignore’s signs/symptoms in a peer. The students wrapped-up their project with their annual Blackout Stigma day, in which students are allowed to dress-down in black clothes, participated in a moving wristband sharing activity, and took pictures at a photo-booth with an anti-stigma backdrop created by all the students at the school.

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Propel was followed by Steel Valley Middle School. These students worked together with their HS counter-parts to unite their schools for a common-cause in their Breaking Barriers Dash. Students also facilitated a Glow-in-the-Dark dodgeball tournament for almost 200 students. Each team had to learn about, spread awareness, and represent their assigned mental health condition. The winners received gift cards. Students also conducted a Kindness Kafe at which they gave away free hot chocolate and ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ bracelets to discuss mental health and increase social inclusion. Students also had a #standtogether selfie station to remind their peers of the activities.

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Next, students in Arsenal Middle School shared their ‘Cool-Aid Stand’ project, explaining the importance of reaching out to their peers, meeting them where they are, and giving away something for free. As a Community School, Arsenal strives to involve parents and other community members as well. Check out their project!

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Carlynton spoke of their ‘dirt’ and ‘sand’ bake sale in which they reminded peers that “Stigma is dirty!” and that they should “S(t)and Together.” The snacks had flags that discussed the myths and facts surrounding mental health conditions and sold out quickly! Carlynton is also going to be facilitating a 1:4 week soon.

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The Environmental Charter School returned to Stand Together after a one-year hiatus and it was great to see them engaging their peers again! ECS handed out hot chocolate and lemonade as well as wristbands to the students to educate them about mental health and substance use disorders. For every 3 green wristbands, there was 1 purple wristband that read “1 in 4 students have a mental illness” to visually represent the prevalence of behavioral health conditions. The students also had information readily available for students that wanted to learn more about common disorders or compare the myths and facts.

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Following ECS, West Mifflin MS shared their tier-3 projects, including a movie night featuring Inside Out and a Color Run, which was open for the whole community. Students also performed skits to talk about mental health and stigma before and during these events. One of the highlights of the day was the students interacting with guests, offering hugs-and giving them, along with passing out a pin with a motivational phrase written on it. There was definitely a lot of love going around the room!

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Steel Valley HS capitalized on Valentine’s Day with their “Love is louder than any mental illness” campaign. Students decorated lockers with mental health facts and positive messages. They also held a door-decorating contest between homerooms that focused on educating each other about mental health disorders. The students largest event was a mental health fair. Students visited tables and activities set-up around the gym during their lunch periods to learn more about mental health conditions and stigma, participate in social inclusion activities, and de-stress through dancing, Twister, and coloring books. Steel Valley’s innovative theme made a huge impact in their school environment and many faculty members, as well.

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West Mifflin HS wrapped up the program describing their full year of events aimed at ending the stigma attached with mental health disorders. Early in the year, students held a balloon release for students to ‘let go’ of struggles and ‘soar;’ regardless of what was going on, students came together in a moving ceremony to ‘stand together’ in hope. Other projects included educating the preschool students, hosting a bake sale, holding a throwback dance, and presenting a school assembly. Another big event included their mental health fair. Much like SVHS, students learned about mental health, participated in social inclusion and coping skill activities, and played games that not only engaged students and rewarded them with prizes, but provided them with reminders of the things they learned that day. (Did you see some of the prizes above that they also handed out at the event?!)

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It was an absolutely fantastic event and everyone had a great time. Students and other attendees left inspired to address stigma in their schools and communities and continue in their plight to increase awareness, increase social inclusion, and encourage reaching out to an adult. Thank you all for everything you do for Stand Together! See you next year!

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If you’re interested about learning more about Stand Together or bringing to to YOUR SCHOOL, please contact Danyelle Hooks at (412)350-3455 or danyelle.hooks@alleghenycounty.us.

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Breaking the Silence: Talking about Mental Illness at West Mifflin HS

Breaking the Silence: Talking about Mental Illness at West Mifflin HS

Students at West Mifflin High School have been planning and implementing Stand Together projects since the beginning of the school-year. As one of only two schools that has participated all four years, WMHS has a large, elaborate program that continually works hard to educate, increase social inclusion, and encourage students to get help.

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Projects began in October, when the group held a cupcake bake sale to kick off the year. In November, the students held a balloon release in which students wrote something they wanted to ‘let go’ of (struggling with), a fact about mental illness, or a hopeful message and attached it to a balloon. The balloons were then released in a moving ceremony. One of the balloons was found 90 miles away and the person that found it contacted us!

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Throughout the year, students maintained a Stand Together bulletin board, held informative sessions during Freshman Health classes, and even participated in a Mental Health First Aid training, including over 40 teachers and staff and 20 students! Students and faculty that completed this training are considered a “Safe Haven,” that is, someone that students and anyone else at the school can talk to if they’re struggling with a mental health concern. Students also connected with teachers during a lunch activity to break down the barriers and fear that sometimes separate adolescents and adults.

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Last Friday, students facilitated Break the Silence Day, a fair-style event at which the student body could test their mental health knowledge by playing games, participate in self-care activities, and help create a mural that was displayed in the school cafeteria.

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This mural was a green ribbon for mental health awareness, made out of the Stand Together students hands, that was surrounded by multicolored feathers with mental health prompts that were answered by the student body, including:

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In addition, the students organized the Mindful Art Gallery which displays works of art relating to mental health in students lives. Works were displayed anonymously so students could express themselves freely without judgement.

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Last week, some of the students facilitated a lesson about emotions and coping skills with the preschool class. The children listened to a book about a monkey that learned to deal with being upset and participated in various activities, including yoga, blowing bubbles, and making masks of faces with different emotions. The lesson concluded with the students identifying an emotion or coping and skill and receiving a green bear to remind them of what they learned.

       

The year will conclude with an end-of-the-year assembly for the entire school. Check them out at http://wmstandtogether.weebly.com/. Special thanks to their advisor, Ms. Rowe, president, Eliza, and preschool teacher, Ms. Bonacci, for all their hard work!

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Hope Floats: West Mifflin HS Balloon Release

Hope Floats: West Mifflin HS Balloon Release

On Friday, November 18, 2016 I had the pleasure of joining the Stand Together team and students from West Mifflin Area High School for a balloon release event. It was a beautiful day and the activity was a great success!

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At lunch, students could purchase a balloon for a ticket out of class for the release that afternoon. Students wrote something anonymous about mental illness, stigma, or hope on a card and it was attached to the balloon. The balloons were redistributed randomly to students and students could read one anothers’ heart-felt messages, before ‘letting go’ of their 20161118_141101struggles and believing in hope for the future.

WMHS Stand Together President, Eliza, shared some remarks at the event:

“Today we recognize our challenges, struggles, accomplishments, and our worries. Today we let it go. All of the years that we have been challenged to live with depression. All the struggles that OCD has given you on a day to day basis. All the help that you have received and the accomplishments along the road to recovery. All the worries to the ones we love struggling with ADHD. Today we are not alone, we have support by the ones around you. The community has your back; if your balloon lands in their yard, they will learn the things we are going through. They will learn we are not crazy, that we are people. That STIGMA IS SHAME, SHAME CAUSES SILENCE, AND SILENCE HURTS AUS ALL!”

Over 100 students attended the moving event. The Stand Together team also passed out brochures on suicide prevention from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and a self-created resource guide. In addition, Principal Phillip Woods participated to show his support.

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Advisor Lauren Rowe & ST Students             Principal Woods ‘high-five’-s Eliza

One of the balloons was found in Ashville, PA, 85 miles away! This balloon was found by Donna Boring who found it while walking in the woods and contacted us on Facebook.

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In addition, students were instructed to Insta/Tweet/Share photos and videos with the hashtag #wmstballoons. We leave you with this video courtesy of Lorin, a ST team member:

#wmstballoons 💙💛🎈

A video posted by @lorin_17_ on

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Week 1: West Mifflin HS & MS

Week 1: West Mifflin HS & MS

We had an absolutely AMAZING first week in the West Mifflin school district! Ms. Rowe’s & Ms. Roman’s groups learned so much, shared openly, and starting thinking about some amazing project ideas. Thanks for being our ‘guinea pigs’ and helping us work out the basic kinks!

20160920_102335 75 (!) high schoolers joined us on Tuesday and they were loud and proud against stigma! We enjoyed many activities, including defining key terms, matching definitions, and Kahoot!-ing some myths away!

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Everyone had a great time and no one left alone!

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Thursday, Ms. Roman’s group experienced some frustration during our puzzle exercise 20160922_092722 but quickly gained momentum as a group during the matching and myths activities as well!

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By the end of the day, the students had bonded and were excited to begin thinking about their projects for this year!

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Revisit our blog next week to see some of the project planning process as our groups learn and grow TOGETHER!

 

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