We at The NAN Project have been blown away by one of our busiest school years yet! After delivering our programming virtually last year, we are so grateful to be back in the classroom. We began presentations in October, and to date, we presented to 2,289 students and 1,292 staff and community stakeholders across Massachusetts this school year! We also trained 16 new Peer Mentors, and hired two incredible Peer Coordinators: Manny Hernandez and Nissa Bisguier. Schools are already booking us several months into 2022, which shows a clear need for mental health education now more than ever. Let’s review some highlights from this year!
Peer Mentor Presentations
Our Peer Mentor presentations are the heart and soul of our work, and we are excited to be expanding our reach! Not only did we work with 16 high schools this school year, we also started to work with a couple new ones: Burlington High School and Swampscott High School. We also held presentations for 4 middle schools, with our first ever presentations to Breed Middle School in Lynn and North Andover Middle School! We worked with our Peer Mentors to develop Middle School centered Comeback Stories that are shorter and speak about mental health in a more age-appropriate way.
Peer Mentor Trainings
Our first three in-person Peer Mentor trainings since the pandemic were a great success! During our four day training, we support our trainees with writing their Comeback Stories, practice public speaking skills, and give them the tools to be successful as a Peer Mentor with The NAN Project. Our team partnered with the YouthQuake and YouForward access centers to host the training and recruit some amazing young people. Our 2021 trainees (now Peer Mentors!) are an impressive bunch, with a passion for sharing their stories of overcoming mental health challenges. A few of our Peer Mentors shared their thoughts about their first presentations with us:
“In November I presented to students in Beverly Middle School. It was my first presentation and I was really nervous about it. However, seeing how the students were so open and kind afterwards made me feel really excited about working with The Nan Project.” – Jeremiah
“I was brimming with nervous excitement before my first presentation with the Nan Project at Beverly Middle School. Before we went in, the teacher recruited us for a game of catch, which she often plays with her students to release pent-up tension. Some of my composure as I spoke is thanks to the fresh air I got beforehand. I’m glad to have learned the value of getting outside and moving around before presenting. It makes nerves feel like energy, tidying up my brain to prepare me to speak.” – Saschi
“My first time presenting with the Nan Project to students in a high school in person was this November in Melrose. Presenting to a group of kids made me feel so good to know that I could be helping someone who may be struggling with some of the same things that I went through.” – Tyler
Law Enforcement Trainings
Thanks to grants from Melrose Wakefield Healthcare and the Edward J Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, this summer The NAN Project developed a 4 hour mental health and suicide prevention training specifically for first responders and law enforcement. In June, The NAN Project provided the evidence-based Suicide Prevention Training: Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) and our in-house developed Mental Health 101 workshop to 48 officers in the Malden Police Department.
During this workshop, our Peers shared stories of lived experience to better offer helpful strategies when responding to someone struggling with Anxiety or Bipolar Disorder. To aid in their training, we partnered with representatives from the Eliot Family Resource Center, the PACT Team (Program for Assertive Community Treatment), and Emergency Services who discussed their role in supporting the Department. Our mental health work with The Malden Police Department was even featured on Boston 25 News! We look forward to continuing our work with Malden PD and offering this program to more officers soon!
Professional Development Trainings
The NAN Project presented 25 Professional Development workshops to teachers and staff this school year. Our most requested training during 2021 has been QPR – Question, Persuade, and Refer. This is a suicide prevention training that equips teachers with the skills to connect a student with professional help if they are concerned about their mental health. Another popular training this year is “Building Resilience in the Shadow of COVID.” This training highlights some strategies to build resilience and bounce back from tough situations for students and teachers. We also rolled out a new workshop called “Power of a Teacher,” which offers positive ways teachers can support their students’ mental health. A teacher at North Andover high school stated this on our feedback form:
“I learned that there are others out there (The NAN Project) who believe in and stand in their power to use their voices and who continue to be the change we need most in this world.”
We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to continuing our work in the New Year!