While high school is still the quintessential American experience, the challenges and problems that students face during those four big years have grown more numerous and complex along with the rest of American society.
That's why the entire staff at Saline High School is engaged in an effort to equip the community's children with the social and emotional tools necessary to cope with stress and anxiety.
Assistant Principals Kirk Evenson and Theresa Stager discussed the high school's collective efforts to achieve that aim during last night's Saline Area Schools Board of Education meeting during a public presentation.
The centerpiece of their effort to help students cope seemed to involve a class called Hornet Time. It's a weekly 29-minute course that focuses on social and emotional wellness. It's in its second year during the current 2018-19 school year, and it's been very well-received by Saline's high school students, according to Evenson and Stager.
"We're teaching students healthy responses ... a typical Saline high school student has to deal with deadlines with studies, they might feel stress from PE class, stress in relationships, and just peer pressure," Evenson said. "Things that just come with being a teenager and growing up today, and some unhealthy things such as cutting or self-medicating."
The long-term vision for Hornet Time is to have freshmen end their high school careers as seniors with the same Hornet Time instructor. The idea is to have that strongly developed relationship between high school staffer and student, along with numerous established peer relationships, provide ample opportunity to be open about what is being felt and how to manage it.
"We're able to tackle some big ideas in a small amount of time," Stager said. "It gives opportunity for staff members to be able to interact with our kids. With trimesters and classes changing, it's hard to make those relationships, but with Hornet Time every student has an adult that they can go to and who is watching them."
Stager reported that student collaborative space The Bridge, Finn the therapy dog, and a slew of clubs and classes geared towards general student wellness are seeing increased usage by the students this year. As usage increases the high school staff will grow the frequency and volume of such opportunities to meet the students' demand.
Saline High School Senior Rosie Kendall provided the student perspective on what Saline High School is doing to help her and the rest of her fellow students deal with pressure both constructive and destructive.
"One thing we've really been getting to is just normalizing the conversation ... it's okay to talk about it - our anxiety and the anxiety of our family and our friends and just the people in our lives," Kendall said. "Just being able to speak about being nervous in crowds or afraid of heights. Normalizing is a great thing that's been going on this fall."
For more information about Hornet Time and some of the clubs and classes offered at the high school to help students handle stress and other psychological challenges visit tinyurl.com/shswellness and view the embedded slide show presentation shown during this week's board meeting.
Other actions taken by the board of education:
- Plans for Saline Area Schools Board Vice President Paul Hynek to lead a discussion on a self-evaluation of the school board's performance was tabled. The self-evaluation is part of a program whereby boards of education can measure and track their performance and growth by group-answering 75 questions administered through the Michigan Association of School Boards. The answers have been submitted and the report on the findings will be received back from MASB in time for a report during the next board meeting on November 13, according to district officials.
- Hynek was also scheduled on the agenda to provide an update on the last meeting of the board's Policy Committee, but the last scheduled committee meeting was cancelled and will be rescheduled at a later date.
- The board approved personnel recommendations from SAS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Curt Ellis, which included one early termination of a probationary employee in the transportation department. The termination was effective Oct. 5. No reason was published.
- Several off-campus field trips where Saline students will travel to destinations in New York, Washington D.C., and Detroit were approved by the board. Jen Denzin and Madelyn Clark of the Writing Center will be taking Saline students to the Secondary Schools Writing Center Association annual conference in Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks on November 18. Kara Stemmer will travel with 15 students to a DECA Inc. conference in New York City on December 5. Over the course of three days the students will delve into marketing disciplines involving finance, fashion, and sports and entertainment. Stemmer is also taking another 50 Saline students to Detroit for a Michigan DECA conference next year on March 8. During the event some of Saline's brightest high schoolers will be among 4,000 DECA students from across the state competing to distinguish themselves as tomorrow's business professionals while networking with each other and established DECA alumni and officials.