Student Voices Amplified in Mental Health Talk

Student Voices Amplified in Mental Health Conversation with Rep. Schrier
Posted on 09/08/2022
For students to meet the high expectations they are held to in Tahoma classrooms, it’s important that they walk into school feeling physically, mentally and emotionally well. We believe that healthy minds learn deeply and effectively. As we take steps to accomplish our Wellness goal, we are committed to inviting student voices into conversations to provide firsthand insight into youth mental health and the impact of our efforts. Last month, U.S. Representative Dr. Kim Schrier visited Tahoma High School for a mental health roundtable conversation with students, staff, and community partners. It was an opportunity for students to share the effectiveness of programs like SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment & Services) and to provide a glimpse at the continued stigma around youth mental health.

Rep. Schrier speaks with Gwendolyn Huete and students

“I am thankful for being able to listen to our leaders talk about what they are actively doing at Tahoma,” said junior and vice president of SAMHA (Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addiction) Hannah Hovaguimian. “Additionally, discussing student and staff relationships in order to create a safe environment. A Tahoma goal should always be having meaningful connections between students and staff and building a sense of community.”

Gwendolyn Huete is a Student Wellness Advocate who helps lead the SBIRT program at Tahoma High School. She’s also an advisor for SAMHA and was pleased to see student voices being amplified in the conversation with Dr. Schrier.

Tahoma students, staff and administrators seated around a table with Rep. Schrier

“It was exciting to see Dr. Schrier there to understand the struggle teens are facing and to hear voices from our schools in an effort to improve mental health wellness. The most important moment during the roundtable conversation was our students sharing their experiences and thoughts around the topic of mental health and wellness. The voices of the students were impactful and we need to hear what students are going through and what they need.”

School Board Director Haley Pendergraft, who attended along with Board President Malia Hollowell and Vice President Pete Miller, affirmed the value of bringing students to the center of the conversation.

“I was ecstatic about the opportunity for Tahoma to have dedicated mental health discussion time with Dr. Schrier,” Director Pendergraft said. “In my opinion, the single most powerful component of the meeting structure was providing seats at the table for our students. This meeting exemplified Tahoma’s standard practice by inviting our students to share their stories and by providing our staff with time and space to follow those spoken words with important information, explanations, suggestions and questions for Dr. Schrier. This structure elevated the significance of our district’s work around student (and staff) mental health.”

L to R: Board Director Haley Pendergraft, Board Vice President Pete Miller, Rep. Schrier, Board President Malia Hollowell

Throughout the school year, Tahoma will be engaging students, staff, parents and our community in mental health conversations and continuing to invite students to participate in– and oftentimes lead– those discussions. SAMHA is a student-led club at the high school that co-facilitates mental health awareness events and develops resources to share with peers around the importance of mental health and the threat of substance abuse. Other district Wellness events will include presentations, both in-person and online, and listening sessions about mental health, depression, substance abuse, the impact of social media and more.

One upcoming event is a presentation from Robert Hackenson Jr. with Dynamic Influence on Wednesday, Sept. 28 regarding social media safety. The event is at 6:30 PM at Tahoma High School's Performing Arts Center and is appropriate for late elementary school students and older.

If your student is in need of mental health support, please consider connecting with a counselor at their school. Additional wellness supports for Tahoma School District families are available HERE.

Information about the SBIRT screener and program is available on our website. If you would like to meet our Student Wellness Advocates who coordinate this program and get information about the screening process and student supports, please join us online for one of our fall family information sessions on Sept. 20 (high school) and Sept. 21 (middle school).

Register for the virtual SBIRT presentation(s) here:

High School (Sept 20 6:00-7:00 pm)
Middle School (Sept 21 6:00-7:00 pm)
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