Posts Tagged West Mifflin

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.

Arsenal giveaways WMHS giveaways

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

crowd plaques

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.

Dese speaks Dese and WMMS students

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.

Propel gameboard Propel bubble

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.

SVMS and MikkiSVMS presentation

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.

Carlynton award Carlynton presentation

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.

ECS table ECS award

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!

WMMS group pic WMMS hug

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.

SVHS table SVHS presentation

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?!)

WMHS award WMHS table

 

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!

Student smiles

 

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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bulletin board

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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