The following article was written by Watertown High School junior Crist Patvakanian:
It’s that time of the year again! SPEAK Week, organized by the Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leaders and funded by the Watertown Community Foundation, took place from March 9th to March 13th at the Watertown High School. For those of you who are unfamiliar, SPEAK Week, which stands for Sharing Personal Experiences and Knowledge, is a week where speakers and activities take place in WHS to help educate students about healthy decision-making, substance abuse, bullying, and suicide prevention. SPEAK Week also allows the diverse clubs of the school to promote their own interesting and useful messages during lunch periods. This year’s clubs that participated include the Watertown Youth Coalition, the Feminist Coalition, the Armenian Club, the GSA, the Animal Rights Club, the Environmental Club, and the International Club.
On the first day, the Watertown Youth Coalition had set up two main events during lunch: a wall of appreciation and a trivia game. The wall of appreciation was a space where students could put sticky notes about someone they appreciate in the building, and by the end of third lunch, it was overflowing with affection. The trivia game took place on a grid, where students moved forward if they had the correct answer. The games questions were based on data collected from the YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) and tested students knowledge on what goes on in the school. Doing either activity earned students candy and a raffle ticket, both of which they could continue to receive throughout the week by participating in other clubs event.
Other highlights from the week include the Armenian club setting up a workshop where kids could paint their hands with the colors of the Armenian flag and make paper prints, and the Environmental club’s artificial tree with ribbon “leaves” that students wrote on to express why they love nature.
This year’s group of guest speakers were also equally as exciting! On Monday, students learned first-hand about substance abuse through the story of a 23 year old in recovery and a physician who treats substance use disorders. On Tuesday students heard from a panel of speakers about gender, sexuality and identity. One very special organization that came to the high school was Genki Spark. Genki Spark performed a Japanese taiko-drumming interactive workshop that allowed kids to share their stories about community leadership, respect, and advocacy for all. Also, students had the chance to try out taiko drumming!
The week ended with a visit from members of the Wayside Multi-Service Center, who led a discussion on the impact of stereotypes in everyday interactions. The staff asked students to write on sticky notes the first stereotype or generalization they had about specific groups/ethnicity. Students then discussed what it would be like to be treated based solely on these stereotypes, what the dangers of stereotypes are and what can each of us do to get to know people beyond these labels. Though the festivities only lasted for 5 days, this year’s messages will undoubtedly stick in the minds of students for a time much longer than that.
Abouth the author Crist Patvakanian is a Watertown High School Junior and Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leader. For more information on SPEAK Week or WYC contact Sara Berkowitz, Peer Leadership Advisor (email@example.com)