Medway Partners with Franklin in Parent/Child Wellness Event

J.D. O’Gara
Interactive Film on Life Balance Shown to Middle School Families in November in Medway; Planned for High School Families in Franklin January 8
Issue Date: 
December, 2018
Article Body: 

On Wednesday evening, November 14th, a group of 85 students and parents gathered to enjoy a meal together at Medway High School, after which The Well-Balanced Student, a Stanford University Challenge-Success film, was screened. The event, aimed at student mental health among the middle school crowd, was the first of a two-part collaboration of Medway Schools’ Director of Wellness, Ryan Sherman, and Franklin Schools’ Director of Health and Education, Kristin Letendre. The second film event, geared toward educating high school families, will take place at Franklin High School on January 8th.
“Communities in general, especially here in the metrowest region, are seeing great increases in student mental health concerns and overall stress,” says Sherman. Schools, he says, address the issue in many different ways, including educating about it in health class and incorporating social emotional learning, which teaches students techniques to cope with mental health concerns and self-management from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Medway, says Sherman, has invested a lot in streamlining the process for students who need mental health counseling. Now, he says, in addition to responding to students who present with mental health concerns, “We’re looking for a next layer, of prevention, working with families and looking at what they can do to support what we do in school – how they can create a balanced life for students. How do we focus on prevention, lifestyle that hopefully will prevent students from exhaustion, high levels of stress or mental health concerns?
That was the impetus what got Franklin and Medway thinking about this.”
“Typically, we’re all dealing with same mental health issues in our communities,” says Sherman “but we’re all working in our silos, and we really end up replicating work, and in a lot of ways there’s not any shared kind of approaches.”
Sherman says he had crossed paths with Kristin Letendre on a number of occasions, and both of their superintendents expressed support in collaboration. They decided to present the film developed by researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, entitled Challenge-Success.
The film, says Sherman, focused on how kids are pulled in many different directions, and because of that, often, down time for them just to relax or unstructured time for them to play and be creative on their own, and sleep, and chores, “which are really important to children becoming happy and healthy,” are curtailed. This unstructured time, says Sherman,” is more important than having them involved in many, many extra-curricular activities or spending hours and hours on homework, and increased focus on academics. The Stanford researchers, he says, found that balance is important.
The Stanford group’s interactive film provided “a great opportunity for shared learning.
Letendre and Sherman applied for and received a grant from the Greater Milford Community Health Network to present the film to middle school families in November, with a family meal and childcare for younger siblings, and to present the film for families of high school students, in Franklin in January.
“The Franklin film on January 8th will be focusing on high school challenges,” says Sherman, with the film stopping for discussion at certain points. “In some ways it’s the same, in some ways there’s a different approach for parents. We all know grades don’t have much weight in middle school, colleges aren’t looking at those grades, so there’s an obvious shift in high school, when those things become much more important. There’s also a different set of demands on high school students, whether it’s team athletics or student clubs. It’s easier for parents to ignore the balance when they get to the high school age. How they create that balance might look a little different in the high school population, but it’s still important to find a way to carve out that time for your student.”
“We see a lot of students with anxiety, students that need to take a lap during the school day because they are just so stressed out they need a movement break. We have curriculum on mental health disorders and depression, and we see a lot of mental health visits to the nurse, to the adjustment counselor, to the guidance counselor,” says Letendre, of Franklin High students. “You can see it on their face; they have a lot going on. They’re growing and developing, and social challenges and social media brings a whole new levels of stress and anxiety to these kids. We’re seeing it across the board, and we know, too, through the Metrowest Foundation Adolescent Health Survey.” This event, she says, “was a nice thing we could partner with in the hopes of bringing strategies to parents and kids,” and the partnership helps get more of a turnout.
Franklin High School has taken steps to combat some of this stress, including incorporating homework-free breaks, such as this past Thanksgiving break, so that students can spend time relaxing with family and friends. These breaks are also designed to help teachers destress as well.
Sherman says parents are also dealing with some of the same stresses. He hopes both events will be able to create connections between families, so that parents can commiserate or empathize with each other.
“That’s really important and helpful to parents, sometimes even more than what you learn at these events,” says Sherman.
Hopefully, there might be some community building that happens.
For more information on the Challenge Success program, visit
The January 8th event at Franklin High School, 218 Oak Street in Franklin, will include a dinner, from 5:30-6 p.m., followed by the film for families of students in grades 9-12 at 6-7:30 p.m. Daycare for younger siblings will be provided by members of Franklin High’s SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). In the case of inclement weather, the event will be held the following evening.