This past Friday evening, I was asked to speak and support a mental well-being program for high school girls at my high school in Westfield. The program is called “It’s a Girl Thing”. What a real privilege to get to contribute to this event. Now, this program is entirely voluntary. As the girls showed up wearing their required pajama bottoms, I was super impressed by just how many girls continued to walk through the doors of the cafeteria.
A core group of seniors known as “The Cover Girls”, organized and facilitated the event. They were committed to bringing the program to the underclassman this year because they appreciated their participation in the previous years. They, along with the faculty leaders and local donors of the program, did a remarkable job setting a very comfortable environment for the girls complete with pizza, salad, and ice cream sundaes.
The line-up of speakers sharing their hearts with the girls was remarkable. Topics ranged from a mom sharing her emotional journey in navigating her child’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, to another mother sharing how close she came to her own daughter dying due to an eating disorder. Each message was so powerful.
I cannot express enough how much I love what they are doing with this program! The concept of the event was born by one remarkable health teacher, Mrs. Kolesar. The moment I met her, I was blown away by her steadfast commitment to her students – both their mental and psychical well-being. WHS is very fortunate to have her caring for and teaching their kids. I don’t remember ever talking about anything related to mental well-being when I was in WHS! This is incredible!
A Girl Thing, aims to connect these young girls together in safe space where they can learn from each other’s experiences with a strong focus on the emotional and mental well-being. How refreshing!
One of the highlights for me was the letters from the upper classmen sharing their wisdom to the lower classmen. Before the event they wrote anonymous and extremely honest letters about their journey in high school. Each letter began with “What I know now that I wish I knew then is…….” What would follow that statement was incredible – a real authentic collection of personal challenges and experiences that would set the stage for small group sharing and discussions. They boldly shared topics ranging from eating disorders, depression, suicide attempts, tragic loss, drug addiction, and even sexual assault.
There is a very special innocence and rich wisdom that kids have. Below is a collection of some of the most poignant messages that I think we can all benefit from hearing. I hope you appreciate them as much as I did.
- What I wish I knew then is that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to put your mental health first.
- What I wish I knew then is that every inch of who we are is worthy and beautiful.
- What I wish I knew then was that everything happens for a reason and that sometimes bad things happen. In the end they help to make you a stronger person.
- What I wish I knew then is that people who really love you will stick with you no matter what.
- What I wish I knew then is that you should never ever for any reason hate yourself.
- What I wish I knew then is that your identity is determined by you, not your friends, family or peers.
- What I wish I knew then is that I must be my own first choice and not let anyone else affect my feelings of self-worth.