By Courtney Duffy

Once each cycle, the STAR club fills the AHS yoga room with good energy while students enjoy each others company. Tucked away from the busy halls, the space allows everyone to relax and focus on the task at hand. Every Day 6 during H block, the group meets to destress, and discuss anything on their minds. STAR, an acronym created by Mrs. Breen and the original group of students in the program, stands for Students Together Are Resilient.

Inspired by speakers from the NAN project, a group of students came to AHS health teachers Mrs. Breen and Mrs. Salvesen hoping to create a group focused on decreasing the stigma of and bringing awareness to mental health in high schools. Mrs. Salvesen explains the NAN project as “an organization that is about preventing suicide and addressing mental health issues.’’

The STAR program has thus far done an amazing job welcoming students and creating a safe, reliable space. Freshman Lillian Jagger said, “It definitely helps with stress from school. It’s a chill environment and a good place to get stuff done. It’s not too loud, so you don’t get distracted.”

Another focus of the program is to talk about any issues that students may have concerning mental health and its connection with school. Jagger continued, “I haven’t really had a lot of problems with school this year, but I feel like I could definitely go to any of the advisors if I needed help.”

Another freshman, Meredith Williamson said, “It’s kind of a community, everyone’s very inclusive, and it’s easy to relax and unwind here.” AHS Student Luke Rush said, “The STAR program helps me with relating with people. The familiarity of the group creates a sense of community, which I think is very important.”

Senior Chiara Holton, the group’s student leader, explained, “I joined because I always want people to feel comfortable being themselves, but it’s a hard thing to do when you’re a teenager. The whole point of this is whether you’re dealing with something, or you know someone who is, to be able to talk about it and feel comfortable doing so.”

STAR was formed by last year’s seniors. Holton, being the only student left from the original group, has taken a leader role and works closely with the advisors. She said, “It’s been awesome doing it; we do a ton of cool stuff. Last year we trained in QPRs [a suicide prevention mechanism], which stands for question, persuade, refer. We do guided meditations, and a lot of art projects like origami and painting. We even went on a field trip to the Museum of Science.”

During a recent meeting, a portion of the time was spent brainstorming and sharing ideas for the upcoming weeks. While being group oriented, the program allows for ample time for yourself. Students found spaces of the room to sit alone and get some work done, but some yoga mats lay in small groups with groups of friends talking quietly. As the block went on, most everyone began doing their own work and a tranquil sort of ambiance fell over the room.

As mentioned by all of the members, the group creates a strong sense of community and belonging. A large focus of the group is to get the word out. With more people involved, more opportunities may come about and the community can grow. Hoping to get some new activities in motion, members of the group reach out to friends to spread the word. The group is open to all students, and is not any sort of commitment. To join, students can sign up with Mrs. Salvesen or Mrs. Breen during H4 on Day 6.

Mrs. Salvesen says, “Right now, we have a group of students who are very interested and come every single time we have STAR. But the idea is to make it open to any student who wants to come by in as a safe place for them to drop in and chat. It’s not an exclusive thing; its open to any one in the high school.”

In preparation for May, National Mental Health Month, and the next few weeks, members of STAR brainstormed activities at a recent meeting. Some of these included playing with puppies to destress, or participating in mental health fundraisers. Many members hope to organize an ‘Out of the Darkness’ Walk. The organization provides support for those who have been affected by suicide.

“This meeting is pretty laid back and unstructured,” Mrs. Breen says. “Often we have some activities that are planned, but today is about building those activities and ideas for the rest of the year.”  

High school can be a tough time for a lot of students, and the STAR group is providing a safe space for anyone who may need it. They encourage you to check it out.

What’s the risk?

“We do a lot of work towards building good self-care habits, focusing on finding things that make you feel happy and make you feel your best. The group is a reminder to take to step back and take a minute for yourself.”