Eastern Tech stu­dents pro­mote pos­i­tiv­ity in the face of tragedy

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­[email protected]­pub.com

Through­out the month of De­cem­ber, stu­dents at Eastern Tech­ni­cal High School have been in­spir­ing pos­i­tiv­ity with ac­tiv­i­ties and projects fo­cused on fos­ter­ing com­mu­nity and dis­cussing men­tal health.

In Novem­ber, the school suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing tragedy when their school re­source of­fi­cer Joseph Comegna com­mit­ted sui­cide in­side his of­fice dur­ing class hours.

De­spite the af­ter­shocks of this loss, the school de­cided to use it as a teach­ing mo­ment.

Se­nior, and one of the events’ lead co­or­di­na­tors, Hana Hard­wood said ETHS prin­ci­pal C. Michelle An­der­son and mem­bers of the guid­ance depart­ment worked col­lab­o­ra­tively with a group of stu­dents to cre­ate a month­long event where stu­dents could come to­gether, have im­por­tant dis­cus­sions, and work through the trauma of Comegna’s death.

The goal and slo­gan of the past month, Hard­wood added, was to make hu­mankind more hu­man and more kind.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to see that we [the stu­dents] have been lead­ing the en­tire ini­tia­tive,” she said. “It’s re­ally been stu­dent-em­braced. At ev­ery event we have, I see new faces. If we get even a smaller group feel­ing more pos­i­tive, that’ll rub off on the whole school. The cul­ture here is al­ready amaz­ing. It was just the small parts, like cre­at­ing pos­i­tiv­ity and sup­port­ing each other.”

For ex­am­ple, last week the school’s Mak­erspace was trans­formed into an art class­room as over 100 stu­dents over a two-day pe­riod hand­painted rocks with feel-good mes­sages. The rocks were a pro­ject through the Joshua York Legacy Foun­da­tion, an or­ga­ni­za­tion White Marsh res­i­dent Bill York cre­ated in mem­ory of his son, an Eastern Tech grad­u­ate, who took his own life this sum­mer.

The rocks fea­tur­ing col­or­ful doo­dles and in­spi­ra­tional quotes will even­tu­ally be used in a rock gar­den at the school’s en­trance.

Dis­cus­sions about sui­cide are dif­fi­cult, York said, but they are im­por­tant.

“No­body ever talked about it. It broke fam­i­lies up, peo­ple were griev­ing, and there was such a stigma and that’s one of the things I’m try­ing to change, one per­son at a time.”

Through the rocks and other projects, he hopes the foun­da­tion will en­cour­age more peo­ple to be open about their strug­gles and in­spire oth­ers to be kin­der and more sup­port­ive.

“We all share sim­i­lar goals and we’ve all been af­fected. What you’re do­ing here is lo­cal, but the move­ment is world­wide,” York told stu­dents dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion. “It’s not just one rock. These rocks will be found and re­shared.”

He told the Av­enue News that his foun­da­tion hopes to “help peo­ple heal” from their own per­sonal hard­ships while keep­ing the mem­ory of his son alive.

Hard­wood said the events through­out De­cem­ber also hope to in­spire stu­dents to put down their cell phones and ear­buds in or­der to have more in­ter­per­sonal, face-to­face con­ver­sa­tions

Or­ga­nizer Jemima Sam­manasu, a ju­nior, said that the death of Ofc. Comegna not only af­fected the stu­dent body but the staff and ad­min­is­tra­tion who worked closely with him as well.

“I’m re­ally glad to be a part of this be­cause we want to help our ad­min­is­tra­tion out. I’m re­ally proud of this.”

“Ev­ery­one re­ally came to­gether,” said Hard­wood.

Eastern Tech stu­dents painted rocks with in­spi­ra­tional mes­sages for a fu­ture rock gar­den at the front of the school.

The event hoped to spark im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions about men­tal health and sui­cide preven­tion.

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