TNP was thrilled to partner with NPS on the first-ever Freshman Forum, held at both high school buildings in January, with all presentations available in English and Spanish.
Our goal was to bring parents and students together in a way that would start an ongoing conversation about important mental health & substance use topics, raise awareness about free services at school, and provide information & resources to ensure a healthy, safe, successful high school career.
Participants snacked on free pizza, tried to play catch with alcohol goggles on (see photo of PTECH Principal Black!) or answer the THC vs CBD quiz, heard from a variety of teen and adult speakers, watched teen-created videos, learned about free mental health services at school, and walked away with a variety of mental health and prevention resources.
Findings from our evaluation survey:
100% of attendees recommended holding Freshman Forum every year for 9th graders and their families.
Participants report improved awareness (average of 4.5 out of 5) of mental health warning signs, the risks of marijuana for teens, what families can do to prevent substance misuse, free mental health resources at school and in the community, TNP and our Norwalk Strong clubs.
A sample of evaluation comments included: "So necessary to provide information they may not feel comfortable asking for"... "I found out about great resources within the school"... "Cool statistics"... "Very insightful" ... "Keep spreading the word! Thanks!"
"Student's story was amazing, powerful and inspiring":
Kudos to our incredible student speakers, Dyan Somerville (shown at left) and Sof Ramos (shown below right), our Norwalk Strong Club leaders at NHS/PTECH and BMHS/CGS, who spoke about their own mental health journeys!
Attendees called their willingness to share personal struggles & how things have improved "amazing, powerful and inspiring."
Another insightful personal story was recorded by Jordan, a local student now in college, who shared his personal story about recovering from marijuana addiction.
Norwalk Strong club videos:
In addition, each Norwalk Strong Club created videos with advice for freshmen and instructions on accessing free resources in school.
NHS/PTECH Video with advice for freshmen:
How to find help at NHS/PTECH:
It Takes a Village!
Freshman Forum participants appreciated the variety of presentations from local behavioral health professionals:
Margaret Watt (Positive Directions) shared results of TNP's 2022 youth survey.
Paige Sinchak (Mid-Fairfield Community Care Center) and Ashley Lopez (Kids in Crisis) spoke about warning signs of mental health in teens.
Diamond Sead (Human Services Council) presented information about the family's role in preventing substance misuse.
Ed Milton (TeenTalk counselor from Kids in Crisis), Paige Sinchak (MFCCC), and Ariana Richards and Ivy Braun (School-Based Health Centers) spoke in the Norwalk Strong Clubs' videos about the free resources they offer in school.
We also gratefully recognize all the local municipal and nonprofit partners that had resource and activity tables at the events. One table was even giving away free tablets! In addition, we had donations of giveaways from all 4 high schools and Coal's Pizza, as well as contributions from Italia Pizzeria and Planet Pizza.
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and all those who made it happen! Freshman year can be a challenging time. We at The Norwalk Partnership look forward to giving our youth the support they need next fall at the SECOND annual Freshman Forum!
As you can see below, NHS Principal Lynne Moore and Asst Principal Dan Sullivan thought it was a great time!