Students from the Westmont Junior High School & Westmont High School along with the principal of WJHS Mr. Jonak and staff of CUSD 201 Ms. Bartosz, & Ms. Hillertz traveled to UIC Chicago to share an educational session entitled “Serving Your Way to Resiliency” at the 2019 Conversations Summit hosted by Hope for the Day.
They students worked together to create a presentation highlighting the SLCC learning and service opportunities and how this affects the mental health of students at the Jr. High. They also shared personal stories of how serving has impacted their mental health and their outlook on the world. Mr. Jonak and Ms. Bartosz led the way in sharing personal and vulnerably about what they have learned through both hardships and service.
“Nobody is going to leave this life without struggle,” Mr. Jonak shared part of his story and invited Lori, A Senior Landscape Architect who partner with the Jonak and family and their local school after his daughter Katie passed to create a beautiful memorial to her memory that engage many volunteers from the community.
Ms. Bartosz discussed her leave of absence from the district in order to pursue travel and service for a year, “we want to show you that we value what we want you to do we value ourselves as well.”
She shared many stories of her time traveling with Hope Travels- and she was quick to point out, “this is not about me bringing hope- but about building relationships. Service is not me coming to save the day- that is too much pressure! People say to me- tell me about all the cool stuff you did and I respond “I didn’t do cool things. I got to see many people, work with many people, and make friends who are doing really cool things. I was abundantly blessed to be a part of this work.”
Students shared throughout the presentation about all they have learned doing service learning. Pranav Viswanath shared about the importance of making service part of your life in Jr High, High School, and beyond. He challenged the audience to find needs in their community and act using their passions and gifts.
Diellza Dalipi explained what the service requirements are for each grade level and Joey Dooley (a freshman) spoke of his experiences in serving using things he loves, like sports to lead a sports camp and teach younger kids. He also served at an adult day care to earn his service hours.
Emmy, the Westmont Junior High's service dog was there for their presentation and as always offered love and comfort for the students.
As her fellow students passed out a copy of a note she had written two years ago Margie Anders spoke of a time in her life where she struggled to believe she was ok.
In 6th grade she was; as she described it “in a dark hole” and thought she needed to change everything about herself. She shared, “the service program that the jr high implemented has changed my life. I would still be in the dark hole I was in if it was not for service. Service can make your life brighter and helped me look at other’s people’s point of view and it can help you see yourself differently. And we when do service it is a snowball effect, we can start it and then it’s a chain and goes on forever”
Another student; Daniel McKay(an 8th grader) spoke about how service can impact each one of us, “it takes your mind off just yourself and all that is going on in your life and really puts your mind on others and positive change out in our world.”
Annikah Engstrom; an 8th grader shared how her view of the world is different because of volunteering with World Relief, “I learned the people we are serving; refugees and immigrants, have so much to teach me. They are so hospitable and kind to us.”
Students and educators from CUSD 201 attended other sessions to learn from others committed to breaking the silence on mental health as well and they boldly shared about the connection between mental health and service and inspired many to think of ways they can make service part of their life- to not only change themselves but their community.