Chris Massos ’18 – Youth Identity Development @ Your Self Series (NY)

Posted on Posted in Externships, Student Contributor, Summer Opportunities

During my externship, I worked with Paula Prentis, co-creator of Your Self Series. This program helps teenagers and middle school children with their social and emotional identity. The program is taught by teachers who utilize the program’s three essential components: a three-book curriculum, an interactive website and student driven discussions about the topics on hand. Mrs. Prentis is well versed in the many problems that teenagers face during their developmental years. She presents to professionals who are interested in how the program works and in how effective the program is with adolescents. During my time working with Mrs. Prentis, I have learned a lot and would recommend the experience for those that wish to work with schools interested in adopting a new curriculum. Specifically, the curriculum would be specialized for adolescents that are dealing with anxiety, heavy work load or other overwhelming issues. If the school doesn’t wish to use the curriculum, there is a free interactive website that can help students going through social, emotional, mental, physical and academic issues.

In the time that I have worked with Mrs. Prentis, I have helped expand a post that covered mindfulness. These posts cover a variety of topics and for each topic, there are other posts which go over different aspects. The posts can be viewed from the interactive website under teens. They help teenagers by providing stories relating to the topic and occasionally give a question to help the reader think about what they read. Mindfulness is described as a method to destress and take a moment for yourself to breathe and focus on what’s in front of you. Another post that I created was on the topic of trauma. This post covered relevant research on trauma and how society is making us more aware about it via movies, and TV. These posts will add to the already existing posts that cover a variety of topics such as social life, academics and mental health. Each post describes its respective topic in great detail by including the effects it has on people, parts of your body and yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally.

The program is very important for children in both middle school and high school because their brains are going through its developmental process. We need to help guide children to make better decisions about drugs, important life decisions, their school work and how to handle bullying situations. Presently, teachers don’t connect with students as well as they should because they assume the children are acting out and being troublemakers. However, that is not the case with a lot of students. Instead, these children can be going through their own problems. One example that Mrs. Prentis described was when she noticed a child that was falling asleep during class. The teacher told him to go the principal’s office and to be escorted by a security officer. The officer asked why he was so sleepy during class. The child explained that he was up all night helping his family with surviving. This instance furthers the point that teachers should become more familiar with each student’s life and help wherever they can.

As teenagers are growing and their brains still developing, it’s important to guide them to become mentally, emotionally healthy adults. Teachers and schools can adopt the curriculum that Prentis and her colleague created to approach adolescents in a kinder and a more understanding way. We see teenagers acting out in different ways by constantly interrupting class, bullying others or lashing out at someone for no reason. However, it’s important to see that these children are not conducting themselves to be troublemakers for the sake of being a troublemaker or being nervous because they are always nervous, instead there is an external or internal reason. For the troublemakers, they could be harassing people because they are not being emotionally supported or being bullied themselves. For those being nervous, they may be socially awkward or they are suffering from a mental disorder. Whatever the reason may be, we should help them work through their issues and provide the best support that we can possibly provide within the curriculum.