New Trinity program addresses student mental health
Dickinson Trinity's teachers worked with Dean of Students Kregg Hochhalter to create Great Teams as a way to assess the mental and emotional health of their student body.
"What I hope to gain is the ability to know the emotional health of Trinity, that's one," Hochhalter said. "Two is to establish a better unity among students that overcomes the long-standing cliques and social groups, and then three, to let every kid in the school be a part of something. When kids are a part of something, emotional health goes way up."
While paper assessments of a student's mental health can be conducted at any time, Hochhalter wanted another, more proactive way to address students' mental and emotional needs.
"I wanted it to be off-paper; I wanted it to be innovative. I didn't want it to be a test. I wanted it to be student-led," he said.
Hochhalter said he wanted to establish student mentorship.
"There's a lot of student-teacher mentorship where students, athletes, coaches mentor us. There's a lot of top down mentorship ... coach to athlete, teacher to student. There's not a lot of student to student," he said. "There's friendships. I'm not trying to create friendships; I'm trying to create mentorships."
From these ideas, Great Teams was created.
Trinity's junior and high school students were divided into 21 teams of 8-9 students and one faculty adviser based on grade level. There are eight teams of 7th and 8th graders, seven teams of freshmen and sophomores and six teams of juniors and seniors. Trinity's faculty carefully chose who would be on each team.
"We broke up cliques. We broke up social circles so that when you leave that meeting, you know that somebody has your back in the school, that you're taken care of, that you're loved," Hochhalter said.
They also picked two student leaders for each group, a leadership student who facilitates discussion and a duty student who records the discussion in their team's "Great Book."
"We went through the entire roster ... and the metaphor I used was we have a lot that are assertive, they're aggressive, they're the captain of the football team, they're on the stage," Hochhalter said. "We have those kids already, and they're just temperamentally that way. They're swimming in the pool. They're in the deep end already ... I want the kids that have gotten on the diving board, so they're ready, but they just need a push into the water. Those are the kids with potential, but they're not actively leading right now. We already have those kids. We don't want to give them more responsibility. We want to cultivate in those that are on the board."
The teams meet most Wednesdays from noon to 12:30 pm.
During that time, they talk with one another to answer the following questions: What's great at your school? What's not great at your school? What's great in your life? What's not great in your life?
The student leaders will meet with Hochhalter about once a month.
"I can have a good sense of how our kids are doing in their emotional health or I can have a full on evaluation ... and I have a lot of sources. I have the promoters (teachers) there observing. I have the Great Books — what's written down by kids — and then I can talk to kids," Hochhalter said.
At the end of the school year, each team will create a community service project. The next year, they will be assigned to different teams.