Montgomery General Hospital has been a long-time supporter of the teen-led, adult-supported community group, which was founded in 1998 to address the health, safety and recreation needs of Olney area youth. So when Project change advisor Ellen Lent approached Montgomery General Hospital President and CEO Peter Monge for support, he said ‘‘it was a simple decision.”
‘‘We’re pleased with what you’ve done and we’re glad to be able to do this for the community,” Monge said at an Oct. 19 gathering to mark the donation.
Under the direction of Kent Fangboner, MGH’s Addictions and Mental Health Center was instrumental in supporting the project.
‘‘One of the reasons we’re working to prevent bullying is to ensure young people’s mental health,” Lent said.
Studies have shown that hundreds of thousands of students nationwide may stay home from school on any given day for fear of being bullied, Project Change officials reported. Perpetrators are reportedly more likely to be involved in fights, substance abuse and criminal behavior.
The bullying prevention program began last year when Project Change received a grant of $550 from Youth Service America and Youth Venture to develop the campaign. Sherwood High School students who were members of Project Change and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) teamed up with students at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney to develop a series of skits that demonstrated the problem and proposed solutions to bullying.
‘‘It was a case of youth mentoring youth,” Lent said.
The middle school students acted in skits that they developed under the direction of Project Change and SADD youth, along with adult advisor Robyn Holstein-Glass. The skits, which demonstrated a variety of ways that youth may be bullied and what they can do to stop it, were taped, edited and scored by students from Sherwood’s audio-visual production team. The result was a public service announcement that first aired at Rosa Parks Middle School last April.
Since then, Project Change has received numerous requests to present the program at area schools and organizations. Rather than simply package and sell their videotape, Project Change youth are in the process of writing a ‘‘how-to” manual that can be used by other groups to develop their own mentoring program and public service announcements.
‘‘I’m so proud of these students and how engaged and committed they are,” Sherwood High School Principal John Yore said. ‘‘The program, which is driven by them, will have far-reaching impact across the state and perhaps even the country.”
Project Change President and Sherwood High School senior Sarika Tamaskar thanked Monge and other MGH officials.
‘‘I can assure you that the money will be put to good use,” Tamaskar said. ‘‘Planning has already begun.”
‘‘You Have the Power!” and a behind-the-scenes look at how it was produced will be featured on an upcoming broadcast of ‘‘In the Mix,” a weekly PBS program that focuses on teen issues.
Audrey Partington is an adult leader of Project Change in Olney. Her daughter, Amanda, was an active participant when she was a student at Sherwood High School. For more information, visit the Project Change Web site at www.projectchange.info.