On May 8th, 2018, Stand Together held its annual Recognition Event for Middle Schools. In attendance was West Mifflin Middle School, Environmental Charter School, Arsenal Middle School, Propel-Braddock Middle School, Steel Valley Middle School, and Linton Middle School. This event was to celebrate all of the hard work each school has done to end stigma within their schools! Working with some of these middle schools was an honor for me; I was amazed by their dedication and willingness to learn new things and spread awareness.
Each middle school implemented different projects throughout the year to end stigma against mental illness and substance abuse. While each school had different approaches to achieving this, they were all incredibly impactful. Let’s take a look at them!
Arsenal Middle School (PPS): Arsenal conducted their Kool-Aid Stand again this year, only with a twist-they added an additional component to give students resources. In addition to signing the pledge and learning facts, students were handed information about ‘Safe Place,’ ‘re:SOLVE crisis center/hotline, and local resources, including school staff who students can reach out to when they’re concerned about themselves or others. They were lucky enough that the weather cooperated for two of their events so they could engage their peers outside, with the added benefit of sunlight for boosting mental health! The Kool-Aid Stands are always a hit with the students. The students also received a green bracelet for signing the pledge; the bracelet served as a reminder of what they had learned that day and what they had pledged to do. Amazing work, Arsenal!
Environmental Charter School: ECS returned again this year with new advisors and a new team-and they did not disappoint! This year, the team gave out hot chocolate (that was popular!-see other schools below). All of the cups had a fact about mental illness on them and one in four cups was labelled in green to signify how many students are affected by disorders in a given year. In addition, students created ‘table tents’ with inspirational sayings and more facts, such as: ‘Don’t be afraid of your story; it will inspire others.’ ‘Stigma is shame. Shame is silence. Silence hurts us all.’ and ‘5 Warning Signs: 1) Personality 2) Anger/Agitation 3) Isolation 4) Poor self-care and 5) Hopelessness.’ Students also went around the lunch room striking up conversations about mental health with their peers. Excellent job, ECS!
Linton Middle School: I had the pleasure of working with Linton Middle School this past year. As a first-year school, I thought the students wouldn’t know much about what we teach but boy, WAS I WRONG! Linton Middle had so many wonderful ideas for projects that they had trouble picking some out. Each student was excited to bring this program to their school and educate their peers on subjects that they found important. One of their projects was a hot cocoa stand! Each cup had a question on it that the participant would have to answer before receiving the hot cocoa. The Stand Together team also had a poster-blitz! The put up posters all around their school that had mental health facts on them to educate their peers. I am so looking forward to seeing what these students will come up with next year. Fantastic first year, Linton!
Propel-Braddock Hills Middle School: Although Propel-Braddock Hills is no stranger to the Stand Together program, this was the first year the middle school participated as well. For a first year school, they had some great ideas and definitely left an impact on their peers! Although they gave out beverages every event, they switched it up by introducing different activities, including talking about mental health at the lunch tables, a mental health myth/fact game, and a Kahoot! trivia. Students could ‘earn’ a wristband, candy, and/or a ‘Keep Calm and Stop Stigma’ tattoo for participating. In addition, there were posters around the school and activity area and a huge pledge for the students to sign. The advisor was really impressed how the students came together to speak up and create change in their schools. Thanks for sharing your passion with your peers, Propel!
Steel Valley Middle School: Instead of three larger projects, SVMS did several smaller projects over several months to get their peers involved and interested. Students took advantage of half-days and holidays and created make-shift photo booths for each event. Each ‘booth’ had to do with a theme and relate to mental health, these included ‘Don’t be a grinch! Have a heart! 1 out of 5 teens suffer from mental illness.’ (Christmas) and ‘I wear GREEN for someone that I am LUCKY to know!’ (St. Patrick’s Day). Students also invited our TA, Jordan, to speak about anxiety before the PSSA tests. The most meaningful activity of the year was the “I Wish You Knew…” board. Students were invited to share something personal about themselves (anonymously) on a post-it note and place it on the mural. The goal was when students read the other notes, they would realize they were not alone and were more alike than they had thought. The SVMS team always thinks outside of the box and their projects are always stellar. Keep stopping stigma, Steel Valley!
West Mifflin Middle School: The students at West Mifflin held their annual color-run which as always, was a tremendous success! Participants would run a course and stop at stations along the way to get drenched in a certain color powder while learning about what mental illness that color represents; for example, the first station was blue which represented eating disorders. The checkpoints included red for ADHD, green for depression, and purple for anxiety. Along with the color-run, West Mifflin also held a hot cocoa stand during each lunch period. The Stand Together students set up all the ingredients and cups while manning the line of students waiting to get some. When it was students turn, they received a cup of hot cocoa with a fact written on each cup. There was also a station to sign the pledge! After a student received the hot cocoa, they headed over to the pledge station where Stand Together students were assisting them with signing the pledge on tablets. All in all, West Mifflin had another successful school year! Way to go West Mifflin Middle!
This year, all of our students received a cool Stand Together t-shirt as a special recognition of their hard work. Thank you to all of our Stand Together Middle Schools! We couldn’t be more proud of the impact you’re making in your schools and communities! See you next year! <3
Written by Lacey & Danyelle, Project Leads
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