A HEALTHY LYNNFIELD YOUTH LEADERS, from left, Teanne Alfama Polanco, Ereeny Georges, Drew von Jako, Evyenia Georges, Lauren Lane, Mike Savio, Liv Scire, Addie Connelly and Janhavi Joglekar gave an overview of a variety of initiatives they are working on during the School Committee’s Feb. 15 meeting. (Peg Sallade Photo)




LYNNFIELD — A Healthy Lynnfield’s Youth Council and the Middle School Club are striving to make a difference, a group of student leaders told the School Committee on Feb. 15.

Junior Drew von Jacko said Lynnfield High’s Youth Council and the Middle School Club have “grown tremendously since last year.”

“The Youth Council had 20 students participate last year and the Middle School Club had 12 students participate,” said Drew. “This year, the Youth Council has 52 students participating and the Middle School Club has 21 students participating.”

Eighth-grader Ereeny Georges said the middle school celebrated Red Ribbon Week last October, which is an alcohol, drug, tobacco and violence prevention campaign. She said the middle school’s annual Wellness Week will be held during the first week of March.

“We want to promote healthy habits and lifestyles,” said Ereeny. “Throughout the month, we will be hosting weekly challenges for students to complete such as mindfulness strategies and stress management coping skills.”

Ereeny also said women’s ice hockey player Sammy Davis will be coming to the middle school in March to “speak about the importance of self-care and good mental health.”

Lynnfield High School junior Teanne Alfama Polanco said the Youth Council recognized how the pandemic made students feel “isolated.”

“We did team-building activities at the beginning of the year,” said Teanne. “We participated in a ‘Selfie project,’ where we found some similarities and we celebrated the differences we each have. We also collaborated with Lynnfield Community Schools to hold a school enrichment program called ‘Stop, Think, Act’ with a company called Be Well with SEL. We also featured a display at the Lynnfield Public Library during Red Ribbon Week, which included tips for parents, a history of Red Ribbon Week and a pledge to remain drug-free.”

Drew said the Youth Council volunteered at the third annual A Night of Hope ceremony that was hosted by A Healthy Lynnfield and the Think of Michael Foundation last September.

“This event allowed us to bring awareness about substance use disorders in order to end the disease’s stigma,” said Drew.

Drew said the Youth Council also made Valentine’s Day cards for senior citizens that were distributed during the Senior Center’s grab-and-go lunch program on Feb. 14.

“Community service spreads kindness and establishes social connections,” said Drew.

School Committee Chairman Rich Sjoberg, who also serves on the Council on Aging Board of Directors, said the town’s senior citizens were incredibly touched after they received the Valentine’s Day cards.

“It was very thoughtful,” said Sjoberg.

Group projects

The Youth Council has also broken up into small groups that are working on projects pertaining to healthy relationships, mental health, stress and supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.

Teanne and her group have created a project called “A Day in the Life of a Lynnfield Student.”

“Managing schedules can be very difficult for students,” said Teanne. “The source of students’ stress is due to being overscheduled with jobs, sports and other activities as well as the stress of academic pressure. I am part of the METCO program. I leave my house at 5 a.m., get to the bus stop at 6 a.m. and I often don’t return home until 7 p.m. if I have a commitment.”

Teanne recalled that the results from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed school-related issues were the most common cause of student stress. She said the group wants to hear “ideas and suggestions” from school officials and educators that will “help students manage their schedules.”

“We want to find out how many hours students spend doing homework and studying, and how students are impacted by multiple assignments and multiple tests on the same day,” said Teanne. “We also want to know how the lack of sleep impacts students. The goal is to create perspective for adults.”

Drew recalled that the town brought William James College’s INTERFACE helpline to Lynnfield in the summer of 2019.

“INTERFACE helps members of the community with accessing mental health outpatient services and resources,” said Drew. “Since then, 81 people from Lynnfield have been able to get help from this service. But when I talk to people about INTERFACE, they don’t know what it is.”

In order to raise awareness about INTERFACE, Drew and his group decided to have the helpline’s information printed onto coffee sleeves. He said the coffee sleeves will be released this spring.

“There will be a QR code on the back that will reference all of the communities INTERFACE is apart of,” said Drew.

Sophomores Addie Connelly and Liv Scire said their group is undertaking a project called “Healthy Relationships.”

“When teens are part of stable and supportive relationships, it results in better physical health, improved self-confidence and promotes the development of conflict resolution and communication skills,” said Liv.

Addie said the group held a “Love Is campaign” after partnering with an organization called Love Is Respect.

“During lunch, we asked our peers to finish the statement ‘Love Is’ and hung up the responses on a trifold, which we later displayed in the Media Center,” said Addie.

Addie said the project resulted in the group partnering with the local domestic violence prevention agency RESPOND, Inc. She said the organization will be coming to LHS on March 1 to raise awareness about domestic violence prevention.

Liv said her group will be with be working with RESPOND to develop presentations and workshops by using a peer-to-peer model.

“Our presentations will include warning signs of toxic and abusive relationships, and how to avoid them,” said Liv.

Addie agreed.

“A peer-to-peer model will allow youth to be part of the solution,” said Addie. “With RESPOND, Inc.’s help, we can continue to educate ourselves and our peers to prevent teen dating violence and foster healthy relationships.”

Sophomore Mike Savio said his group’s project involves supporting the LGBTQIA+ community at the high school. He said the group has been working with the North Shore Alliance of GLBTQ Youth (NAGLY) as part of the project.

“This is a very important topic to me,” said Mike. “It is really important that we have representation in our schools. NAGLY is going to be setting up a table at lunch and will be hosting an after-school workshop to provide LGBTQIA+ students and allies with information.”

A group featuring junior Evyenia Georges, sophomore Janhavi Joglekar and freshman Lauren Lane is undertaking a project called “Pioneers for Pioneers.”

“Our group chose to focus on youth mental health by studying and targeting the student-teacher relationships in the school building,” said Evyenia. “Mental health encompasses the health of the most important part of our body: The brain. As students, it is very important that we take preventative measures for our mental health. We can take one step forward towards those preventive measures by forming healthy and trusting relationships with the adults in our school.”

Lauren said the group’s project entails studying student and teacher relationships at LHS.

“We want to get an understanding of which teachers are most trusted and how many students have a trusted adult,” said Lauren.

Janhavi said the group administered a survey to the student body to learn whether students have a trusted adult at LHS.

“We defined the phrase trusted adult with the acronym T.R.U.S.T.,” said Janhavi. “That is someone who is trustworthy, respectful, understanding, supportive and truthful. The students were asked to anonymously write which teacher stands out to them as their trusted adult. Our survey received an overwhelming number of responses from students. After surveying the students and selecting the top five teachers who were nominated, we are now ready to begin the interview process. If they are willing, our group will interview the teachers. We spent time at our last meeting drafting questions to ask the teachers. Their interviews will be displayed in articles for LHS students to read. Our hope is to use the results to help students know which teachers they could possibly trust, connect with and reach out to if they ever need someone.”

Evyenia also said the group is interested in interviewing each School Committee member as part of the Pioneers for Pioneers project. All five members agreed to be interviewed.

SC praises students

School Committee member Kate DePrizio said the work being undertaken by the Youth Council and Middle School Club is “remarkable.”

“I am so impressed by the work you are doing,” said DePrizio. “You are using your voice in a really powerful way.”

School Committee member Jamie Hayman said the board understands supporting students’ mental health is a “huge need right now.”

“We recognize it has been a hard couple of years for our students,” said Hayman. “We know there are students who are hurting and need places to go. I think raising awareness about it is really important. The safety and mental health of our students across the district is the most important thing we have to look out for.”

School Committee Vice Chairwoman Stacy Dahlstedt was impressed by the compassion the Youth Council and Middle School Club have for their peers.

“You care about the school community and the broader community,” said Dahlstedt. “We all recognize that the last couple of years have been really challenging and all of you are addressing really important topics. I want to encourage all of you to keep up this wonderful work.”

School Committee member Phil McQueen said the Youth Council and Middle School Club are undertaking “grassroots activism.”

“You are building equity and diversity within our school system so that everybody, regardless of who they are, gets the help that they need if they need it,” said McQueen. “You are showing empathy through activism, which is very impressive.”

Sjoberg agreed.

“All of the work you are doing is incredible,” said Sjoberg.