Fox Meadow Middle/High School Expands Tech Offerings 

Nate Holt works on a team logo in computer graphics class at Fox Meadow.

When his baseball coach mentioned that it would be great to have a new team logo, Fox Meadow High School student Nate Holt volunteered to design one. And, at a recent Fox Meadow Computer Graphics class, Nate stared intently at his screen as he worked on learning a design tool that would let him create that logo.

The graphics class - part of the newly expanded Tech offerings at Fox Meadow at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES - is teaching Nate how to use his artistic talents in a new way.

"It's cool - you can create a lot of stuff that you can't do with paper and pen," he said, adding that Computer Graphics teacher Aaron Armisto encourages him and other students to learn by trying and revising. "It's actually pretty cool to be able to express yourself like this."

Classmate Patrice Kemp also has enjoyed learning the tools in programs like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop and was looking forward to designing a logo for an upcoming class project.

Along with computer graphics, students at Fox Meadow Middle/High can now take cosmetology, culinary arts and carpentry classes on campus. Culinary Arts classes began two years ago; the school has long offered carpentry.

The expanded offerings followed requests from students to add more electives to the academic offerings, said Team Leader Stacey Chiarella.

"We've been listening, and we wanted to create new options to make the school more enticing for our students," Chiarella said.

While some Fox Meadow students already had the option of taking a shuttle bus to the nearby PNW BOCES Tech Center in Yorktown for the program there - and several take advantage of that - offering elective tech classes right at Fox Meadow works better for others.  

Maria Kilmer says she loves learning about cosmetology at Fox Meadow.
The classes at Fox Meadow are significantly smaller, enabling teachers to provide students in the classes with more support. Additionally, students who may simply want to try out a tech class for fun may feel out of place in a more structured tech program with students seeking job or career training. Finally, while the Tech Center requires that applicants must have already completed some high school credits, the Fox Meadow courses are open to both the middle and high school students there.

Both Armisto and cosmetology teacher Kerrianne Taylor said the tech classes are helping some students explore new interests and letting others display existing knowledge.

"When you look at the career paths that will be open to this generation of students, exposure to tech and art-based technology makes a lot of sense," Armisto said. Taylor said she has turned to several of her students who were particularly adept in nails, makeup or certain hairstyles when teaching those areas, encouraging them to share their skills with classmates. 

During a recent class, cosmetology students worked on learning how to style hair with rollers.  

Junior Maria Kilmer, who has liked styling hair and applying makeup since she was a child, said she was excited to discover this year that she could take cosmetology every morning at school. She is now even thinking about working in the field in the future. 

"It's my favorite class and something I really enjoy," she said. 

Fox Meadow Students Join Fight Against Opioid Addiction  

Fox Meadow students attend a Westchester County-sponsored summit on opioids.

Students from Fox Meadow Middle/High School in Yorktown participated earlier this fall in a county-sponsored summit called to engage Westchester youth in the fight against the opioid epidemic.   
Accompanied by teachers Stacey Chiarella and Patti Gallo, several juniors and seniors from Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES' alternative middle/high school listened as Tony Hoffman - a former off-road bicycling pro and Olympic coach - spoke about his battle with addiction, his prison term and how he turned his life around.  County Executive Robert P. Astorino also urged the larger group of about 400 students from around the county to be part of the solution.  
"Young people are dying," Astorino told the students. "This is not just a day-long assembly. This is serious business, and we need your help. Young people are on the front lines of this epidemic." The daylong summit grew out of the initiative Westchester County Opioid Response Teams Helping You, or Project WORTHY, launched earlier this year. 
The Fox Meadow students, who included Colby Kelland, Irving Rodriguez and Alexandria Pujol, spent part of the day listening as Hoffman outlined what his addiction had cost him: friends and family, his home and eventually his freedom, following an armed robbery. While in prison, Hoffman conquered his addictions, later becoming a professional BMX rider and placing second in the 2016 World Championships. He now directs The Freewheel Project, a not-for-profit that engages students through active sports such as dirt biking and skateboarding. 
The students also heard from a panel of young adults from Westchester Community College who spoke about how their lives had been affected by opioid and heroin addictions. During workshops with representatives from other high schools, students were challenged to help come up with their own ideas for spreading awareness and fighting the drug epidemic in their school and neighborhood communities. Students called those exchanges the highlight of the day:
"What I found most helpful was the time we spent in the conference room," said Kelland. "I wish we had had more time to converse in there and really come up with ways to help others." For his part, Kelland said he hoped this year to reach out to fellow Fox Meadow students needing support through the school's CODA Club, short for Co-Occurring Disorders Awareness. The CODA Club explores links between addiction and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and ADHD.
Chiarella said that the students had participated in an activity involving masks that they hoped to replicate. The exercise involved creating masks to represent hidden problems, such as anxiety, addiction or family issues.  Using and taking off metaphorical "masks" offers a path for exploring ways to reduce stigmas surrounding mental health conditions and addictions.  
"We want people to know it is okay to remove the 'masks' and talk about their anxieties or a family member's substance abuse," Chiarella said. "We want our students to know that it is always okay to take off their masks and ask for help."  

At the Thanksgiving celebration, Fox Meadow students were thankful for a delicious feast prepared and donated by staff - and the annual Turkey Bowl! After gorging on turkey, plenty of side dishes and plates of pie, some students headed outside to play football. Others stayed warm indoors watching movies or visiting with friends. 
Student Voices from Fox Meadow

We asked three Fox Meadow students: 'What do you like about attending Fox Meadow Middle School?' Here are their answers.

Joe Becker, 8th grade  
I like the one-to-one help here. At other schools, the classes are bigger and if you don't understand something, you're stuck. Here, the teachers spend a lot of time helping you and making sure you understand - there's just a lot more of one-to-one contact. 

James Messina, 8th grade
The teachers look out for you here and everyone is really nice. It's like a big family. I like history class here because I'm a history geek, and I like wood workshop. We also have a great gym teacher who tries to motivate us - all the teachers are very nice. 

Jonathan Alexander, 8th grade
We get a lot of attention from our teachers. In my old school, the teachers couldn't walk around and help you in class. Here, they work with you one on one - that's what I like, it helps me finish my work. My favorite subject here is math class: the work is complicated and it challenges me.  

Link between Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse Explored at Fox Meadow HS  

Stephanie Marquesano talks to Fox Meadow High School students teens battling mental health and substance abuse problems. 

You are not alone.
That's the message that an Ardsley mother - who lost her son to a drug overdose in 2013 - set out to spread to young people battling both mental health and substance abuse issues. After first speaking at Fox Meadow Middle/High School a year ago, Stephanie Marquesano returned this fall to talk to new students and reconnect with ones who have joined her mission.  
Marquesano began the Harris Project to publicize the problem of Co-Occurring Disorders in teens, which she ties to the death of her 19-year-old son, who dealt with extreme anxiety and ADHD along with substance abuse.  Once teenagers with mental health issues turn to drugs to self-medicate or quiet inner voices, the addiction problem often takes center stage. Rehabilitation programs, she charged, ignore underlying issues such as anxiety, depression and ADHD to focus on getting teens off drugs. That, she emphasized, was a big mistake.
"Belittling people, telling them to just say no is not effective," Marquesano said. In Harris Marquesano's case, every time a program dealt with his substance abuse, the anxiety struggles returned in a spiral that eventually ended in his overdose. Fox Meadow students inspired by her story began a Co-Occurring Disorders Awareness - or CODA - club last year. Fox Meadow senior Brandon Gordon said the club has opened his eyes to the magnitude of the problem and highlighted the importance of reaching out to help one another. Another senior in the program said the club has made her more aware of how her anxiety issues leave her more vulnerable to addiction. It has also helped her to know that so many others her age are also struggling.
"It's good to feel like you're not alone," she said. In the CODA Club, Fox Meadow students also speak about how to change the way society views substance abuse and mental health problems - issues that Marquesano said affected 22 percent of young people aged 13 to 18. Despite that statistic, teenagers feel embarrassed to ask for help or talk to their friends or family about their feelings.
"Young people are struggling. They are not feeling comfortable in their own skin and they're not getting help," she said.  
Marquesano told students that they needed to start talking about mental health issues in the same way that they discuss physical problems. They also need to be active participants in their health care, questioning physicians or dentists about whether prescribed pain killers could lead to addiction.  Most of all, however, they and their families need to understand the relationship between mental health and substance abuse so they can get the right type of health and master their issues.  
"My story is tragic, but I hope you will be empowered to learn more about CODA,'' Marquesano said. 

Marie Cortissoz, Editor
Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES

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