MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — High school students who are part of the President’s Junior Leadership Council at Northern Westchester Hospital get the chance to tell adults what they really think.
On May 9, the group of 30 students will give a presentation to the hospital’s President’s Council, which includes local community leaders like Mount Kisco Mayor Michael Cindrich, Bedford Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts and Fox Lane Superintendent Jere Hochman. The presentation, called “Teen Talk,” will focus on effective adult-teen communication on sensitive health issues, like drugs and drinking, smoking and stress.
Maria Simonetti, the hospital’s Youth Program Coordinator, started this group of student health ambassadors, which includes students from Fox Lane, Byram Hills, Horace Greeley, John Jay, among others. The goal of the group is to increase communication between the hospital and Northern Westchester teens.
“The goal of the hospital was to be more inclusive,” Simonetti said. “We have a CEO who is very progressive and very interested in the community, and young people are a part of that community,” she said of CEO Joel Seligman.
Interested students apply in September for a select number of spots and are interviewed by a panel of their peers. One member, Charlotte Herber, a sophomore at Fox Lane, said that students are being taught to help their peers in innovative ways.
The junior council’s 2011-2012 health initiative centered on an anti-tobacco campaign, where members created a brochure highlighting the risks of smoking and distributed it in their schools.
The group’s anti-stress campaign was in 2009 and 2010’s theme was Alcohol and Risk Reduction. That year, club members distributed alcohol safety information cards for students to put in their purses and wallets on prom night.
“I think it is very difficult to be a high school student in modern times. Everything is very, very fast-paced and there are a lot of the issues that go along with school,” said Herber.
“Whether you’re overstressed or you’re depressed that you’re not getting good grades or even with the emotional drama of prom,” she said, “that all gets compounded by pressures to engage in negative behavior.”
In these situations, she said, students are often reluctant to seek out help from parents or other adults. The goal of the council is to bridge that gap, she said, helping students access the information they need and adults understand teens’ concerns.