HULL—No one likes slogging to the school gym for a boring assembly for a tedious screed on some “important topic” by a speaker students haven’t heard of, so students at Boyden-Hull High School changed it.
Instead of the poorly received schoolwide gatherings to address social and mental health issues, the student council organized Comet Conversations this semester.
The initiative takes place in 7-12 homerooms and gives the young people a more amiable atmosphere to ask questions and be heard.
“We just thought this was more personal,” said vice president and senior Brody Woelber at a roundtable discussion on the program.
“We didn’t want people to be called out or uncomfortable,” said secretary and junior Ellie Woelber.
Comet Conversations take the form of each homeroom’s teacher starting with a short talk, then turning it over to students. It happens monthly on Thursday and Friday during “Comet Time” a 20-minute period in the middle of the day.
So far, the initiative has covered depression and sexting. The council chose the topics because they are relevant but rarely discussed seriously in an educational setting.
Each Friday session ends with an anonymous feedback “exit ticket” that students can use to suggest future Comet Conversations. Anxiety, next month’s choice, was by far the most asked-for subject.
The tickets also provide ways for students to get help if they need it. At least five of the 336 enrolled at Boyden-Hull were connected with resources following the depression sessions.
“Our goal was just to help one person,” said treasurer and senior Caitlyn Beyer.
While some of their classmates were apprehensive at the beginning, council members said the student body has come around.
“At first, everyone was like ‘This is stupid,” Beyer said.
“It was a typical response to having to do something that you didn’t choose to do,” Brody said. “But the students respected the conversations and were willing to take another shot at another conversation.”
President and senior Gabi Luevano said getting students to embrace it is challenging, but she already has seen improvement in the school environment.
Virtually all of the tickets from the 336-member student body included information they found helpful.
The council’s efforts go beyond “Comet Time.” It put up encouragement posters and resource information in the school bathrooms. Getting the student body to be a more understanding place is the target of the program.
“Every topic we choose and plan to choose — it’s awkward,” Luevano said. “It is awkward and difficult and people might not want to talk about it, but that’s the point of it: something that’s not talked about.”
The four teens also have gained from the experience.
“I learned a lot of things I probably would have never known,” Ellie said.
“I was grateful to learn how I can use information to help other people,” Luevano said.
Beyer had the last word on the thesis of Comet Conversations:
“You get a discussion this way. You can talk about it.”