LAKE TWP. Lake High School partnered with Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR) to bring Javier Sanchez to speak to 600 freshman and sophomore students on Feb. 1.
Sanchez is a presenter for Ohio’s "Be Present" campaign.
He was a dynamic speaker and kept the students’ attention for close to an hour by using comedy, storytelling and poetry to reach students. The "Be Present" campaign strives to educate and empower friends, classmates and siblings to provide needed support to each other.
The campaign is also meant to help youth become more aware of and able to address their own emotional state. Ohio developed the campaign to encourage teens to feel like they have been seen, heard and supported versus feeling isolated and judged.
School Counselor Debbie Marshall said "Be Present" is a new program offered through the state of Ohio.
"We met with StarkMHAR to see what we could do here at Lake Local to help students and they mentioned this new initiative and asked if we would be interested in bringing it to our students and community," Marshall said. "After the presentation, we are providing student mentors and other follow-up steps to continue to build on the concepts from the program. I think it’s a good platform especially with the additional resources offered online plus it encourages face-to-face engagement."
Sanchez told the students, "I do comedy for a living but give this presentation to live and because I care about young people."
He started his presentation with a story about his son’s premature birth and the struggle he and his wife went through while his son was in an incubator and spent the first four months of his life in the hospital. The Performing Arts Hall was completely quiet as Sanchez detailed his story.
"We questioned everything in our life and why we deserved this. I realized that two kinds of people were there for us during that time. Those who wanted to fix everything and tell us it was all going to be ok. And, those who let us cry or be angry and just listened, they were just being present," he said.
He went on to say that he didn’t have the answers then or now, 17 years later. His son pulled through and is now in high school.
"I know this has been a hard week at Lake. I’m not here to fix anything. I’m here to remind you that each and everyone of you is valuable. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that everyone of you is worth it," Sanchez said.
One of the lessons he had the students repeat was the VAN lesson. It teaches students that everyone is Valuable and Necessary. He had the students look at others around them and tell them they are valuable and necessary.
"So many students don’t feel they are valuable and necessary and that’s why the 'Be Present' campaign was started," Sanchez said. "You each have the opportunity to be present and make someone’s life better than when you found them. It’s as easy as saying hello to someone or smiling at them."
He also encouraged students to stop comparing themselves to others and instead make a gratitude list for the things they do have. Sanchez told the students that social media platforms are basically used to compare oneself to what others have or are doing. A few other items he mentioned included: words can heal or tear someone down, hate is an excuse for laziness and when you make someone feel alone, it’s a form of bullying.
The students were engaged throughout the hour, they laughed, listened and participated. Sanchez asked the students to get out their cellphones and go like the "Be Present" campaign.
A second presentation with Sanchez was given to the community at 6 p.m. that evening. While Sanchez spoke to the freshman and sophomores, Lake Township resident Travis Bornstein spoke to the juniors and seniors earlier in the morning. Bornstein’s presentation included education about the opioid and heroin crisis, the dangers of over prescribed pain medications, the latest statistics on opioid use and the story of his own son who was a Lake graduate.
For more details about the "Be Present" campaign, visit www.bepresentohio.org.