In keeping with Superintendent Judy Wilson’s recent advice not take the measure of students and schools with test scores alone, the public schools will present “Healthy State of Mind,” a panel discussion with behavioral health specialists from around the region on Monday, October 8, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Black Box Theater at Princeton High School (PHS).
PHS Principal Gary Snyder will help facilitate the discussion. He will be joined by Trinity Counseling Service Clinical Psychologist Molly Palmer; Rider University Professor Karen Gischlar; Princeton House Counselor Nicole Orro; therapist Julie Neufeld; and Traumatic Loss Coalition coordinator George Scott. PHS Guidance Supervisor Angela Cecil will also be on hand for the program.
The October 8 event is the first in the public schools’ Princeton Balance Speakers Series for 2012-13. Intended primarily for parents of middle- and high school-age children, the talk will provide information and support in promoting good mental health and a sense of balance in the lives of pre-teens and teens as they negotiate life transitions, relationship challenges, and academic and social issues.
“Judy wanted the first program to have something that would acknowledge that we want a sense of balance in our children’s lives,” said public school spokeswoman
Assenka Oksiloff. The Princeton Balance Series was launched last year; it is intended to offer three events each year that “address issues that span all the grades,” Ms. Oksiloff noted.
In addition to working at Trinity Counseling Service, panelist Molly Palmer and her colleague, Melinda Noel, run a leadership class for eighth graders at John Witherspoon Middle School. The focus of the once-a-week meetings, she said, is on “leadership skills, self-esteem, self-awareness, and positive inter-personal skills.”
“My specific part is going to be about transitions and the risk factors that are associated with transitions,” reported Julie Neufeld describing her role in the October 8 discussion. “Some of the transitions that preteens and teens go through are obvious and clear cut, like moving from middle school to high school. Some of them are a little bit more obscure.” More nuanced problems occur, she said, when a student goes from being first in his or her middle school class to something lower than number one in high school. Being moved from a varsity athletic team to a less competitive one can be similarly problematic. “Sometimes a kid’s identity is so centered around being at the top of the class or being a great athlete,” said Ms. Neufeld. A change that they perceive as a kind of demotion can have a negative affect. She plans, she said, to highlight different types of transitions, “and help parents know what kinds of things might cause an increase in insecurity and a decrease in self-esteem.”
Rider University Professor Karen Gischlar specializes in “behavioral principles,” with a particular focus on the hard-to-manage child. Her other areas of interest are school psychology, and behavioral and academic assessment.
The Princeton Balance Speaker program is scheduled for February 13. The topic will be “Leading healthier lives Through Nutrition and Exercise.”