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DECA tailgate targets mental health

Daily Telegram - 9/14/2018

Sept. 12--The annual Superior High School DECA Tailgate Fundraiser is focusing on a clear and present need. Every dollar raised during this year's event, which takes place before and during the home football game Friday, Sept. 14, will provide mental health services to Superior students.

"You might not see it," said senior Jessica Kimmes, president of DECA, an association of marketing students. "You might look at someone and think they're totally fine. But beneath everything they could be hiding something. Beneath a fake smile, some people are struggling. And it's hard to know that."

Many students at SHS have experienced personal losses, Kimmes said, and a student died last year. Teens deal with academic and home pressures as well.

"Everyone's hurting in some sort of way," Kimmes said.

That's the reason the student council focuses on kindness, she said, and why DECA has targeted student mental health with its community service event.

"Our DECA chapter kind of noticed that people need to be kind, but then the person that's hurting needs help," Kimmes said.

The money raised will be earmarked for student therapy services from Lake Superior Community Health Center. Kimmes said the center has three therapists who offer services to students throughout the district.

Their "Mental Health Matters" fundraiser is very timely, according to District Administrator Amy Starzecki. At a feedback session with all teachers and staff two weeks ago, the four different groups delivered the same answer.

"It was really the most powerful thing I've probably been a part of since I've been here," Starzecki said. "When I asked them what our greatest challenge is, it was mental health for our students and families.

"It's the No. 1 thing impacting our kids."

The school district provides counselors in every building and has Lake Superior Community Health Center therapists available. This year, SHS has added a full-time social worker to their staff. Jane Larson is a clinical social worker and therapist. She will provide social, emotional and behavioral supports, work with educators and serve as a liaison to help families connect to community resources

"This is the first time we had a position like this at the high school or even in the district," SHS Principal Greg Posewitz said. "So we're all kind of still learning this and we'll be meeting on it regularly, especially on the beginning of the year to define what her role is."

The high school has tried to address student needs in the past.

"They weren't as successful as we had hoped, so we're just trying another approach," Posewitz said. "Having a full-time person here will be greatly beneficial to our students."

Coming from Minnesota, Starzecki said it appears there is a real void when it comes to community supports for Superior families and students in the area of mental health.

"It feels to me that we don't have the same amount and level of resources that I had when I was in Duluth," she said.

She plans to investigate what barriers exist and how to impact them, and she applauded the DECA students' work.

"I think it's wonderful and it completely aligns with what our staff are saying our kids need and what our community needs," Starzecki said.

The tailgate fundraiser begins with family fun from 5-6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14 at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. During that hour, every $6 game admission ($4 for students) includes free food and family games, and all the money goes to DECA. From 6-7 p.m., the admission price will not go to the students' mental health initiative, but visitors can purchase food and T-shirts from DECA or bid on silent auction items.

The students will also hold a "miracle minute" between the first two periods, trying to raise as much money as they can during that time frame.

Those who can't attend but want to contribute can donate through a GoFundMe page. The link to the page and more information on DECA activities can be found on The Spartan Shack Facebook page.


(c)2018 the Superior Telegram (Superior, Wis.)

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