I am catalyzing change at my school as my two friends and I (in this course) will educate the eighth graders at our school on their soon transition into high school. As I was in their shoes a few years ago, I remember the school counselors and deans from the high school talking to us about classes, new opportunities, what to expect, etc. but mental health was only briefly touched on. Giving these eighth graders realistic, not sugar coated information and stories of our experience in high school from these past two years, along with all of the different struggles, stress, and anxiety we have encountered, allows them to get a new view on high school rather than just listening to school teachers talking to them about the general idea of high school.
The 8th graders in our middle school who will all be incoming freshman in a few months is our audience. They are the ones who have their imagination set on what high school will be like in a few months. I remember thinking high school would be a combination of Mean Girls, 90210, Gossip Girl, and High School Musical, but I’ve come to realize quickly how different it actually is. I want to educate these eighth graders with the same imagination on what to actually expect, including their mental health.
- My sister is currently in this eighth grade, so hearing the friend drama she has everyday related to school, their social life, and sports is already a sign that friends will be a struggle next year- altering their mental health. It’s stressful to walk into a new school with at least 400 new faces (at our school) on the first day, not knowing what to do.
- I had stereotypical high school thoughts running around in my head this time of year when I was in 8th grade, which absolutely freaked me out, and I want to change the perception these 8th graders have of high school.
- In our middle school, we have a class called Affective Ed teaching us about stereotypes in the world, disabled individuals, gratitude, etc. so there was not much talk on mental health. In high school, Affective Ed taught us about depression and stress, as well as signs of it and how to support others, but I believe that has to be taught BEFORE high school, BEFORE it could be too late.
- I wouldn’t be wrong to say mostly everybody in my school, and the world, is addicted to social media, which distracts students from doing school work. Social media has taken a toll for the worst, and in high school, this “image” people want to keep up with is all over social media. Even these eighth graders are using so much more social media than I did at their age, it blows my mind to see their “behind the scenes” stress and anxiety of what to post on Instagram or who to snapchat. Social media is an issue I would like to bring up, as I can speak for myself, it stresses me out and has given me major anxiety, so I assume it does the same to about everybody else.
TedTalk on Social Media’s Domination of Our Lives:
As our high school counselors and deans said to my friends and I, “it’s one thing to hear this information from us and teachers, but it’s another to hear personal, real experiences of older high schoolers, like you guys, who recently went through the same experience”. I know when I was sitting in Affective Ed classes in middle school, I was either dozing off, not paying close attention, or completely bored because it seemed like a waste of time, overall not getting much out of the class. This means the same goes when they taught us about high school. So these eighths graders will be engaged and excited to hear from high schoolers who have gone through what they are about to. Also, I am very close with many of them because I have grown up with many of them, so that makes it even more exciting on both ends to talk to them, as they will be more open for discussion with my friends and I.
For our presentation, my friends and I split up the following topics:
Me: friends, finding the right people, sense of belonging, support, getting involved in new and interesting things, peer pressure
Bella: time management, coping with stress, extracurriculars, balancing social and education at the same time
Caroline: anxiety, depression, how to help and be there for others
I had no idea what to join in high school, what friends I would make, and even now, how to deal with stress and anxiety while balancing my education and social life. These kids will get a personal idea of what to expect and what to do in high school in these difficult situations they will find themselves in.
How Will This Work?
The three of us will create our sections of information and combine it into one large presentation. We will present to the 8th grade, include personal stories and insight on high school, specifically mental health and to what extents it can reach. We will have an interactive Q and A at the end, as well as a poll they can possibly take later that day- feedback, etc. I also made the video (below) of my peers, including sophomores and freshman talking about their transition into high school and how to get involved, as well as the process of making new friends.
To the 8th Graders:
I put together a video of sophomores and freshman answering questions relating to mental health in high school, their experiences so far including their transition to HS, as well as advice they wanted to share. (Sorry it might turn a little blurry, but the two videos go back to back)
Changes I Would Like to See:
- This year at school, a mental health alliance was created, and along with others, I am getting involved with it. There has already been presentations at our high school assemblies and lunches to educate students and teachers on how severe mental health is and how we lack to support others and instead carry the stigma created around it. I would like to see more individuals in my community join this alliance, and the stigma to go away at school, and more awareness arisen.
- I would like to see and hear the incoming freshman have an easier transition into high school, and a change in the amount of people who feel stressed, anxious, depressed, unhappy, etc. (all mental health issues) who see our counselors.
- Leadership and mindfulness are two themes in my school, which go hand in hand for this catalyst conference. Hopefully our presentation to the 8th graders opens up discussions and sparks more awareness on mental health, how to advocate for it, how to support it, and just overall, understanding and empathizing with it, coming from high schoolers instead of teachers!
I dare you to start saying hi to more people in the hallways and branch out to people that aren’t necessarily in your close friend group. Make more connections in your school and give everybody a chance, because I know if I didn’t give some people a chance, they wouldn’t be my best friends right now. Also, make sure you’re supporting others and looking out for them no matter the situation. High school is challenging and overloaded with work, so your social life shouldn’t affect your education.
Lastly, below is a survey I made because after all my babbling of my high school and opinions, I want to hear yours! Share any additional thoughts, comments, questions, in the comment box at the end of the survey!