NORTH CANTON Diversity and acceptance are issues so many school districts approach in meaningful ways. One of the ways that North Canton City Schools has been bringing the issues to the forefront of students’ thinking is holding a Project MOSIAC Day every year.
MOSIAC is an acronym for Molding Our Students to be Accepting, Insightful and Caring. This year, it involved gathering 100 students from grades 9-12 and providing a day of activities that promote self-awareness, resiliency and emotional intelligence.
High School Counselor Annie Moore has coordinated and facilitated the day for the past three years. She said the program was the idea of retired North Canton City Schools employee Angela Smith 11 years ago. She said the activities held throughout the day are effective and impactful for the students.
"The 100 students are selected by teachers and staff, from the 100 we select 23 juniors and seniors to become student leaders," Moore said. "I meet with the student leaders to develop activities for the remaining 100 students. The activities are meant to meet the student’s needs. This year we tailored the message to teach resiliency in the face of adversity. The theme was Listen to Understand, Not Respond."
Moore added that it teaches the students, most of who have faced adversity themselves, that "we need to have each other’s backs and not be quick to judge." She said students have to get parental permission to join the day because the students do miss a full day of school. Plus, they discuss some deep topics and the day can be emotional.
The 100 students are broken into smaller groups and each group has a student leader who guides them through various activities. Adult leaders including teachers, counselors and a school physiologist who also help throughout the day. As part of the activities, students had to answer three questions, what is adversity, what is resiliency and what is emotional intelligence.
They were also asked to share an adverse childhood experience they may have experienced. Moore said one of the favorite activities every year is the Come to the Line. Students are lined up in two separate lines facing each other.
One of the adult leaders will make a statement and students are invited to step towards each other if they feel the statement applies to them.
"This is a powerful activity because students begin to realize they are not alone and that others are going through the same things. They begin to see support systems they didn’t know existed," Moore said.
There were also speakers who came in to talk with the students. There were two friends that presented together and talked about their own high-risk childhoods and how they overcame to become successful adults. Another speaker came from the Pro Football Hall of Fame to talk to the group about developing a personal mission and overcoming personal adversity.
Moore said the adversity issues addressed every year are broad and can include economics, gender, being introverted, sexual preference and students that have moved around a lot, plus others.
"We address anything that makes a student feel different from others and makes them feel they are going through it alone. The main goal is to have them realize they aren’t alone and there are support systems they can count on," Moore said.
She said the 100 students are selected for a variety of reasons including for a student’s positive attitudes and willingness to be a role model for others. Some are selected because they are suffering some adversity in silence.
"One of the new activities added this year was developing a personal action plan where the small groups were asked how they can promote self-awareness, resiliency and emotional intelligence in school, clubs and individual activities. Most of the groups came up with at least 10 ways to add to their action plans," Moore said. "Many new friendships are formed and new support systems develop. The impact stays with the students. Some ask to participate all four years of high school because they want to be an active part of Project MOSIAC."