Mount Si High School group gets in the business of building bridges
September 21, 2011
By Sebastian Moraga
From all corners of Mount Si High School, a group of 30-plus students head to Vashon Island for a weekend in the fall.
From glances, they graduate to looks. From looks they move on to bashful dialogues and from dialogues they start friendships.
Then, they return to Mount Si and repeat the recipe, this time with as many classmates as they can.
Natural Helpers, a group of peer communicators and counselors, credits every activity, success, friendship or problem solved under its wing to the midautumn training in northwestern Washington.
“What happens during that weekend,” group advisor Joe Galagan said, “is during the course of the activities they learn they can be close to a lot of other people they maybe didn’t even know 24 hours earlier.”
Knowing that, they reach out to their fellow teenagers at school, offering help, offering an ear or even a simple hello or birthday wish.
In a building full of teenagers, reactions to friendly faces will vary.
When rejected or rebuked, member Samantha Lindmeier said, “You just got to brush it off.”
Sometimes, it’s not as easy. Building bridges with classmates, like any construction project, has its hurdles.
Lindmeier said confronting societal ills like homophobia can be frustrating.
“People like those who are against gays or something, they say what they want, they don’t care who they hurt,” she said. “I fear that’s going to keep happening, even if people are committing suicide because of these actions.”
But when the bridge holds, it’s great.
“You learn the big impact that little things can have,” member Jack Polito said. “Like saying hello to someone new or someone who looks like they are not having a good day.”
“You start believing that it’s a good thing to reach out to other people,” he said. “You come back with that belief and then you act on it.”
To join, students have to be nominated by a former member of the group or by a faculty member.
“Anyone who goes into there, they were nominated for a reason,” Lindmeier said. “Someone sees something in them so they want to put them in that situation so they can make a difference.”
Students who join remain members for life, Galagan said, because the lessons they learn last that long.
“Once you’re a Natural Helper, you’re a Natural Helper,” Polito said. “You can always spread what you’ve learned to other people, and if someone is willing to listen, they can learn the same things you did.”
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or email@example.com.