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The Value of Engagement in School-Wide Activities

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By Gideon Abadilla

Carteret High School students who participate in Pathways' various clubs have been significantly involved in engaging their fellow students and staff. At least once a month, Pathways clubs organize programming that takes place within the school to stimulate participation from the entire school community. In October, SADD club members placed themselves throughout the hallways one morning to distribute Red Ribbon Week stickers to students as they walked into the building, then handed out Red Ribbon Week lollipops to students and staff as they exited the building on the same day. All of the stickers and lollipops had the phrase "Drug-Free Looks Like Me" printed on them, allowing SADD club members to promote a drug-free lifestyle to the majority of the CHS population.

In November during students' lunch periods, GSA had organized their own version of GLSEN's Solidarity Week to spread awareness about issues among LGBTQ+ youth and demonstrate visible solidarity with the LBGTQ+ community. Taking place in the school cafeteria, GSA volunteers challenged students to LGBTQ+-themed trivia and asked them to sign a solidarity pledge where they promise to avoid anti-LGBTQ+ language or slurs, intervene in situations of anti-LGBTQ+ harassment or slander (when it is safe to do so), and support safer school efforts. GSA also gave out rainbow-colored disposable masks to further spread the visible solidarity efforts throughout the building. The masks were proudly worn by students, staff, and administration. By the end of this three-day activity, 125 solidarity pledges were signed to recreate the 2018 Progress Pride flag in banner form and about 150 CHS community members participated overall.

Later in November, Incorruptible.US and SADD combined their efforts to host a cafeteria activity for The Great American Smokeout, an annual event hosted by The American Cancer Society. With the help of Wellspring staff, volunteers from both clubs helped raise awareness about the dangers of smoking by handing out Great American Smokeout-themed stickers, facilitating a trivia game involving smoking facts and statistics, and asking students to pledge not to smoke. To incentivize participation, students spun a prize wheel for answering a trivia question correctly. Students who also signed the no-smoking pledge were entered into a raffle for an Incorruptible.US blanket. At the conclusion of this event, there were over 220 students who participated and signed the no-smoking pledge. The highlights of this event were also featured on the Middlesex County Incorruptible.US Instagram page.

As the holiday season was approaching this December, SADD members took the initiative to spread the word around school about the 2NDFLOOR Helpline, a 24/7-resource New Jersey youth can reach out to if they need to talk out any issues they are troubled with. It was especially important to spread the word at this time because there are students who may struggle with mental health around the holiday season and during winter break when their school resources are not available. SADD volunteers challenged each other to a friendly competition to see who could get the most students to enter the 2NDFLOOR Helpline number into their phone contact list. They chose one day to go promote the helpline during lunch periods and then throughout the rest of the day, getting as many people set up with the phone number as possible. At the end of this activity, the top three volunteers were awarded an Amazon gift card, with the first-place winner getting 52 people to enter the helpline number into their contacts. Overall, 275 students were set up with the 2NDFLOOR Helpline as a resource on the phone.

So far, this school year has been filled with great opportunities for students in Pathways clubs to demonstrate their commitment to promoting a healthy and positive lifestyle for fellow students and staff. These instances of school-wide programming have allowed students in Pathways clubs to develop their leadership skills and put a face to the support system their fellow students have in their school building. This level of engagement with the school community also helps with exposing students to Pathways if they are not already acclimated with us. We are grateful to see new students enter the Pathways Office and interact with us throughout the year, and school-wide programming certainly helps facilitate those new interactions.

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