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It's OK not to be OK: Student committee aims to help get resources to their peers
It's OK not to be OK: Student committee aims to help get resources to their peers
Posted on 11/17/2020
Mental Health spelled out in Scrabble lettersA group of high school students have an important message for their peers in a pandemic environment: It’s OK not to be OK and people care.

A 12-member student Mental Health committee has been formed at Utica High School to provide their classmates a “toolkit” that students can use get support during an uncertain time.

“The message I would like to get out to other students is that it’s ok to not be ok and the first step in the process is receiving help from others,” said UHS Sophomore Natalie Shtogrin. “Whether it’s counselors or friends or family, make sure you are receiving this help.”

To get necessary information in their classmate’s hands, the students have been sharing tips on the school’s morning announcements and sharing resources on a new Instagram and Twitter account.

“Anxiety and depression are pervasive in our society even when we are not in the middle of a global pandemic,” counselor Kelly Bronski said. “The pandemic and remote learning make this committee even more relevant as we are able to have a virtual space for students, counselors, and administrators to identify the needs of the student body and develop ways to educate and support students to improve their general well-being, which will hopefully impact their desire and motivation to excel in all aspects of their life including academics.” 

Students applied to be part of the committee and are working with school counselors and administration.

"Our group is made up of students who want to make a difference and are willing to step outside of their own comfort zones in order to do so," Bronski said.  

The students received training on resources and skills that students can use to cope with the uncertainty and changes brought on by the pandemic.

In a recent morning announcement, students introduced a strategy that involves “touch” to help students become grounded after a stressful event, such as a major project. Objects that can help reduce anxiety through touch include a fuzzy blanket, a fidget toy, animals, necklace or a hoodie.

Students on the committee include Mary Borus, Natalie Shtogrin, Joe Perry, Hailey Fehn, Grace Leonardi, Sophia Meguid, Delaney Dahl, Satchit Kulkarni, Brittany Shock, Katilyn Tuttle, Victoria Huynh, Allison Smith and Amanda Pesola. 

The students work with principal Thomas Lietz, associate principal Deborah Olson and counselors Kelly Bronski and AnnMarie Carabelli. 

“Our hope is that students will be able to better cope and understand how to deal with how they’re feeling, and the main way to do this is by first getting help,” Shtogrin said.