You may recall someone from your formative years, perhaps a classmate or fellow youth group member, in whom it seemed everyone could confide.
The goal of Natural Helpers, a peer-assistance program used across the United States and in several other countries, is to train students who fit that description to develop their listening and decision-making skills further.
For nearly four decades, the program has been in place at Upper St. Clair High School. And last year, Peters Township joined the effort by establishing a high school Trust Crew.
Longtime Upper St. Clair Natural Helpers adviser Bill Rullo guided the training at both schools for students who were identified and selected through anonymous surveys. Gifted teacher Judith Alexander is his Peters Township counterpart.
“Last year, we came back and said, ‘What can we do to help create a healthier environment in school?’ We surveyed the kids, and the results of the survey gave us information on what our students are most concerned about,” Alexander said, with the results including stress and anxiety about achieving good grades and choosing the right career path. “The students have come up with a list of ideas of things that they would like to do.”
One of the ideas will be implemented Oct. 12 with the first Walk for Wellbeing and Wellness. The Peters Township Trust Crew and Upper St. Clair Natural Helpers are collaborating to host the event from noon to 4 p.m. at Peters’ high school stadium.
“We wanted to bring the community together to support individuals who are living with or love someone who is struggling with mental health problems, and also to provide resources and information, as well as healthy options,” Alexander explained.
The intent also is to help remove the stigma associated with people who suffer from the likes of anxiety, depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.
Free to members of the community, the event features a f5K walk along the stadium track.
Participants will receive thank-you bags containing materials including materials, strategies and information about local service providers and options.
At 1 o’clock is a presentation by Jordan Corcoran, founder of “Listen, Lucy,” a website that offers an outlet for people to express themselves freely and creatively as a therapeutic measure.
“I have been living with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder for years now, and I have always found that the best release from my internal struggles was to write about it,” she states at http://listenlucy.org/.
Also offered at the Walk for Wellbeing and Wellness are games like musical chairs, tug o’ war and “rowdy relay,” with participants paying a small fee to compete. Proceeds will go to BroglieBox, a quarterly subscription designed to promote optimal mental health and overall wellness by providing items such as essential oils, coloring therapy books, candles, aromatherapy, journals, calendars and self-help guides.
Students at both high schools have assembled gift baskets to be raffled off, along with a pair of ever-popular Pittsburgh Steelers tickets. Food trucks, music and yoga instruction also are part of the festivities.
The day’s experience for the Natural Helpers and Trust Crew students complements the 25-plus hours of training they receive in such areas as becoming more knowledgeable about major problems facing classmates, developing awareness of their limits as helpers and knowing how important it is to take care of themselves.
“Really, it’s empowering students,” Alexander said. “They’re going to learn some skills that will be lifelong skills.”