Middle school students spread simple message of help and hope to others
January 13, 2020
Always love your selfie.
This is the simple message three middle school students have for their peers and the community.
Cheyenne Nowak, Hillside Middle School seventh-grader, Dinella Messina, Greenbriar Middle School seventh-grader, and Peyton Giaimo, Holy Family Catholic School eighth-grader are cadette members of Girl Scout Troop 71658 in Parma. For their Silver Award Project, which is the highest award a cadette can earn, these passionate students focused on anxiety, depression and suicide awareness among teens.
“The project was about suicide and how we can prevent that from happening because when kids are in depression, have anxiety or are broken down in their self-esteem, they tend to want to hurt themselves or even commit suicide,” Nowak explained. “So we made a poster that the kids could go up, take a post-it note, and place their name by their feelings on the board. If they put their post-it in a spot like ‘I’m in a Dark Place,’ a teacher or adult can talk to them and help them.”
The students dropped off posters at middle schools and high schools in the district and encouraged schools to use them to start a conversation about mental health among students.
The girls also had signs made that were displayed in Parma’s parks and in people’s yards that had inspirational messages on them. The students visited Cornerstone of Hope and participated in the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) walk, as well.
“We looked up positive quotes and put them on signs so people could see them,” Messina shared. “We did this in September because September is Suicide Awareness Month.”
They attended the 2019 PCSD Opening Kick-Off, where they handed out materials from NAMI, Life Act and Cornerstone for Hope, created a handout with ways to de-stress and resources to help, and passed out buttons with the same positive quotes on their yard signs. The girls asked people to place their feelings for the day on the board, too.
“We also did a stress test at the kick-off, where we had people come up and answer some questions,” Giaimo expressed. “We had 56 people take the survey and found that people were stressed and some even wanted to hurt themselves.”
The girls worked tirelessly on this project and successfully completed all the requirements by the first semester of this school year. This is a 50-hour community service project and the main goal was to identify a need in the community and work on a solution to help make their community a better place.
“This project was important to me because I had an uncle who committed suicide almost 10 years ago,” Messina said. Nowak and Giaimo shared that they have been personally impacted by this topic, as well.
As they reflected more on their project, the girls agreed that they did make a difference in their school and community. They also noticed that the topics they researched are things that adults, teens and kids are going through every day.
“We are never going to be able to stop someone from doing it because we can’t control what they are feeling at that time, but I feel like they should be able to talk to someone,” Nowak expressed. “If we can at least try to get through to them that if it’s not ok, it doesn’t have to be the end, we can help people.”
“I also noticed that for kids who might hurt themselves, we can make a change before they do it completely,” she added.
Something they wish they could do differently would be to ship out care packages or provide tangible support to those who may be struggling to let them know they are loved and wanted, Nowak said.
“I think it would have also been good to do assemblies at the schools to spread more awareness,” Giaimo described. “I know some kids might not have taken it seriously, but there are kids who might really have needed to hear the message.”
The girls are not shy about learning and discussing tough topics. They completed their Bronze Award as junior girl scouts on human trafficking.
“I just want people to remember that there is always someone out there that can help you,” Nowak shared.
“And there is always someone who cares,” Giaimo added.
PHOTO CAPTION: (L –R) Peyton Giaimo, Cheyenne Nowak, and Dinella Messina ask people how they are doing at the 2019 PCSD Opening Kick-Off.