Houlton Region

Students helping students is focus of new RSU 29 effort

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Middle-High School students interested in fostering stronger relationships with their peers now have a new group to promote a respectful environment in their school.

The Social Wellness Awareness group was a student-driven effort endorsed by the school’s administration as a way for youths to connect with their peers.

Four students — senior Tessa Solomon, eighth-grader Mariah Peterson, sophomore Isabel Cyr and eighth-grader Tea Wilde —  presented information to the RSU 29 board of directors Monday, March 4, at the board’s regularly monthly meeting.

“We saw a need in our school [concerning] some kids who didn’t really want to be there in the morning,” Solomon said. “We want to make kids feel safer and want to be here in the school.”

The group’s mission statement reads, “We, the Social Wellness Awareness group strive to cultivate, encourage, and sustain a safe and respectful environment within our community that inspires social awareness, empowering attitudes, and positive change.”

Tim Tweedie, assistant principal at the school, said, “The group really came together based on student requests. Several students had come to us to express their desire to start a student-led advocacy group. Many of the students, but certainly not all, who first proposed the idea were also in Nan Mill’s Social Justice class, and some of their class discussions led them to this idea. We felt it was important that we support this.”

Solomon said the group’s vision for Houlton Middle-High School is to foster a happier and more respectful school environment.

“We believe that honesty and integrity will lead us to a better future and a positive culture,” she said.

Tweedie added that several staff members, at the beginning of the year, expressed an interest in creating additional platforms for students to take on leadership roles.

“While this is first and foremost a program designed by students, there has been assistance from interested staff members,” he said.

The SWA was opened to any interested students in grades 7-12 and is currently capped at 40 students. Tweedie said once the group has a more defined purpose, additional students may be added.

“I wish the school had a program like this when I moved here,” Solomon said. “I can already see a positive change that it is making in our school. We can’t make everything perfect, but maybe we can reach out to students who maybe aren’t coming and tell them we miss them and want to see them back (at school).”

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