By Amanda Perelli
Kings Park students are going digital in the national debate of mental health awareness to raise awareness among their peers and inform community leaders.
Students in Kings Park school district worked to create a nearly 31-minute video to spread mental health awareness in the community and with elected officials.
The Superintendent’s Council, a group of more than 30 Kings Park students from grades four through 12. The council is made up of approximately four students per grade, who are elected by their peers in fourth grade and remain a part of the council through graduation.
“We got to talk about mental health, a big conversation not only in Kings Park, but all around the country.”
– Timothy Eagen
Timothy Eagen, superintendent of Kings Park school district, said that this year’s council was focused on mental health. The students invited Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) to a council meeting in March, where he spoke about his role in local government. As a result of that meeting, council members decided to create a video covering stress and anxiety; vaping, smoking, and substance use/abuse; and online safety to raise awareness of mental health in the community.
“They are just a great group of student leaders that I use to bounce ideas off of and pick their brain and insight on a student perspective,” Eagen said. “We got to talk about mental health, a big conversation not only in Kings Park, but all around the country.”
The students filmed themselves, teachers and their classmates in the district for the video. Several Kings Park staff members who assisted include district Assistant Superintendent Ralph Cartisano; Rudy Massimo, principal of R.J.O. Intermediate School; Ken Ferrazzi, assistant principal at William T. Rogers Middle School; and Danielle Thompson, technology integration specialist, helped the students create the video which was filmed on iPhones and iPads. Thompson then edited and pieced together the footage using iMovie.
“If we can get the students to share what they are experiencing, just encourage them to speak about it… maybe we can save a life or two.”
– Rudy Massimo
“We broke it into different groups and being that I am one of the participants of the Superintendents Council, I worked with middle school students on drug and alcohol abuse, including vaping,” Massimo said.
The entire video, from the script to where they filmed, was driven by the students. They filmed parts in areas of the building where students might go to do things against school policy, including the stairwells, bathrooms and basement. They used their smartphones to gather information and read off of them like a script. Throughout filming, the students had one goal to get their peers to listen, according to Massimo.
“Mr. Trotta was the first audience that the kids had to show off their video, Eagen said. “We have it posted to our website and we’ve also shared it with our elected officials, so they can best understand how our students are feeling.”
The principal of R.J. O Intermediate said he has plans to show pieces of the video in the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms next year.
“What the kids say is that they are tired of the same kind of information coming to them,” said Massimo. “If they hear it from their peers, it means more.”