Students in the elective Literature for Tolerance class at Fitch took a field trip to Clarion University two weeks ago where they were introduced to a non-profit organization called To Write Love on Her Arms. The organization presents hope and understanding for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.
"Mostly this organization has been popular with musicians, colleges and teens," said Fitch language arts teacher Steven Ward. "I came across this because students pointed me in the direction to check out this website and read its message."
Ward did check it out and afterwards he arranged for his class to take a trip to Clarion to learn more about the organization. He said it seemed to fit in with the elective course he teaches at Fitch. Students in his class were then invited to attend on their own time and learn more. Seven elected to take the trip.
Steve McMorran, lead singer of the band Satellite, poses with Fitch language arts teacher Steven Ward and Fitch seniors Taylor Marshall, Ciara Ross, Gia Kosmo, Jessica Kerr, Josh Reid, and juniors Dominque Cappabianca, and Kristin Weiss during a special program on finding hope and dealing with depression.
"The number one lesson about teaching tolerance is to have tolerance and love for yourself," Ward said. "If you have unresolved issues with yourself, chances are you take out on something or someone else. We talk so much about reaching out and helping others, this was an opportunity to listen to the founder of a multi-million dollar foundation dedicated to helping others. It has sparked many ideas on what the students can do to help others and better the school environment."
Ward said the students that attended the event learned how to listen to others and lend a sympathetic ear. He said often another student who is suffering from depression can be helped by just listening to them. Others may just need direction.
"They learned how to direct people to get help," Ward said. "Maybe the student in class or at the lunch table just needs to tell an awkward or bad part of their life story. The thing is just weighing them down and affecting them. They just need someone to talk to and hopefully they learned to be that person. Hopefully they learn to be the one to help, get their friend or classmate to the guidance counselor instead of engaging in a harmful behavior."
The To Write Love on Her Arms foundation, he said, focuses on reaching out to people so they don't feel alone or isolated. Ward said kids are faced with more challenges today which leads to a higher rate of depression in school and at home and adds to the estimated 19 million people who live with depression every day of their lives.
"We've learned that two out of three people who struggle with depression never seek help, and that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide," he said.
While at the event, the Fitch students got the privilege of meeting To Write Love on Her Arm founder Jamie Tworkowski as well as the lead singer Steve McMorran for the band Satellite. Ward said it was a great field trip and the students did bring a lot back home.
"The students learned to listen to others," he said, "Everyone has a story and some people want you listen. Sometimes just being there is enough to help someone through."