Students from Portsmouth High School took a field trip to participate in the Youth Impact Prevention Summitt at Shawnee State University, on Jan. 19.
Zac Nance, student behavior intervention support specialist at Portsmouth City Schools, took a diverse group of Portsmouth High School students to participate in the Summit to discuss the drug and suicide prevention services that are offered in our community.
Because it was a youth-led event, students from 10 local school districts had the opportunity to hear about these programs and how to make healthy choices from other students. Nance said he worked closely with the guidance counselor to select a diverse group of students from PHS who have displayed leadership qualities from across different disciplines and social groups.
Among them were freshman Dontavian Parker and junior Emily Cheatham.
“It was a really eye-opening experience, honestly, to go there and see how all the other schools interact with each other and how people feel getting different opinions and outlooks on mental health. It was a really fun and much-needed experience,” Parker said. “We covered friendship and how to open up and listen, and how to lead by example. Just sharing how you feel so someone else might be comfortable enough to speak with you about how they feel.”
He said one of the things they learned about was empathy and understanding that even though you might not go through the same thing you should still try to understand how they feel.
“We got to do multiple activities to learn about mental health and how to speak up and talk to people about it. We learned how to pay attention to get to peoples’ needs if they are bothered about something,” Cheatham said. “You never know what someone is struggling with at home or at school. Someone always needs to talk about that, because you don’t want to keep it inside. We need to learn to listen to people, even if we don’t really know them.”
She made a plea for all the students at Portsmouth Schools to get involved and come together to learn more about how they can help each other and talk openly about mental health.
Nance said the event makes him proud and hopeful for their generation.
“I think they did a great job, and really hit on how important it is to be genuine about this. In physical health, if you wash your hands but you don’t really mean it you can still get all the benefits of clean hands. If you do mental health without really meaning it, you don’t get those benefits. I think they emphasized that it has to be a genuine voice coming through,” Nance said.
For more information about Portsmouth City Schools, visit them online at www.portsmouthtrojans.net, or follow the school’s page on Facebook.