Springtime School Review – 2018

As the school year comes to a close, busy season is upon us once again. Over the past few months, The NAN Project been working tirelessly with numerous schools as they try to equip their students with the tools they will need to maintain their Emotional Wellbeing before heading off into the Summer. Our standard presentation starts with an introduction to The NAN Project and a short video, followed by the core of our performance, our Peer Mentors sharing their Comeback Stories of resilience throughout their life’s struggles. We then engage students in a discussion about what various Mental Health Challenges look like, how to help a friend who may be struggling, and what supports are available in the Community.

We had the amazing opportunity to work with the Stoneham High School Peer Leadership Team by training them in suicide prevention in early March. 25 bright, enthusiastic students graduated the Q.P.R. (Question, Persuade, Refer) gatekeeper training, where they learned how to: 1) Ask someone if they are thinking about suicide (Question); 2) Help the person find hope and listen to what they are struggling with (Persuade), and, 3) Get them to the help that they need (Refer). (A small anecdote: when we met with the Peer Leaders about a month later, one of the students approached us and stated how fortunate he received the training when he did as a friend was struggling and he felt empowered to get his friend the help needed. This is what makes our work worthwhile!) We are excited to continue working with this community to keep the conversation around mental health going! We will also be back to present to 5 classes of Juniors and hopefully recruit more students for their Peer Leadership Team on June 5th.
On April 2 and 3, at Acton-Boxborough High School we introduced The NAN Project and had our Peer Mentors present to the junior Health Classes. It just so happened to coincide with the School carrying out the Signs of Suicide (SOS) screening, and showing the Friends For Life video,  which touches on how to respond to a peer in crisis (what timing!) We were able to supplement the wonderful Screening for Mental Health programs with our Peer Mentors opening up the discussion of their firsthand experience of Mental Health. The conversations were awesome and we hope to work with other schools that carry the SOS curriculum going forward.

The NAN Project is getting more active on the North-Shore with presentations at three schools across Salem, MA! On April 23, we opened the door by introducing The NAN Project to faculty across the school district. On May 15, we presented to Salem High School’s Therapeutic Program and their Hawthorne Program, which is for students who are returning to school after extended absences and lets them reintegrate on their own terms. And on May 23, we presented to New Liberty Innovation School, which is an alternative school within Salem Public Schools, that serves students that have previously struggled in school. Here we were given a tour of the school, introduced ourselves to the students, and had our Peer Mentors present their Comeback Stories. The discussions after revolved around how to tell someone you are struggling, who are the trusted adults you can turn to, and how to access supports if you or a friend is having a hard time.

In late April, The NAN Project finally got into Nan’s old high school, Hamilton-Wenham Regional. Due to a time restriction, we were asked to present to their entire Junior Class! We then divided all the students into 4 separate groups of 30 or so students to have a discussions about Mental Health, and what to do if someone you know is struggling. The NAN Project was then asked to come back on May 18 to present to 4 groups of Seniors (on their last day of school, nonetheless), as part of their yearly Senior Seminars. Our Peer Mentors leda discussions about the anxieties of graduating high school, and what supports the students can turn to as they transition to the next chapters in their lives.

The NAN Project was invited back to present to the second half of the junior class at CATS Academy in Braintree (we presented to the first half in February).  Here we introduced ourselves, aired our video, and had our Peer Mentors present their stories. Our Peer Mentors then engaged the students, who mostly come from overseas, in discussions about the anxieties of being far from home what supports they can turn to if they are struggling, for example, Dorm Parents, School Psychologist, and School Nurse.

We returned to Andover High School in mid-May to present to the junior health students. We love coming back here as this was one of the first schools we presented in. Over the past three years, we have presented to almost every junior at Andover High School, over 1,000 in total! We always have our standard introduction and our Peer Mentors share their Comeback Stories. One of our newest Peer Mentors, Elli, really resonated with a large number of the female students, though everyone did an amazing job. 

The Bromfield School in Harvard invited us to give a presentation to their entire 8th Grade Class on the 16th of May. This was our first time ever engaging a middle-schooler audience. We adapted the language we used for the younger students and discussed what mental health challenges look like for young people, especially for those transitioning into high school, which can be a very anxiety-provoking time in one’s life. Our message was very well-received, with one student even stating, “I think it went well.  We never pay attention as a group and I looked around and everyone was paying attention and taking it seriously.” We plan to be back at The Bromfield School next Fall!

Thank you to all of the dedicated School Staff that have worked tirelessly with us to make these presentations a possibility. It is your effort and belief in The NAN Project that makes what we do so impactful. Enjoy the Summer, we look forward to seeing everyone in the Fall!

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