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HUDSON-- An idea more than a year in the making to help transitioning seniors came to fruition April 11 at Hudson High School with the help of Hudson Rotary and Hudson Community First.
"Uncharted Waters: What Seniors Need to Know" was a program opened to all 408 graduating 2017 seniors. The students were divided into four sessions: wellness including alcohol and overdoses, safety on campus, now that you are 18 what should you do and an area focusing on relationships/dating and assault. A lunch and a grab bag of college items was given to each student at the end of the meeting.
"This is a new program that we hope will be ongoing," according to Laura Gasbarro, co-executive director of Hudson Communuty First. "I think this is an important story to share."
Rotary Club of Hudson members were excited about the program, according to Kathryn Sines, Rotary president elect.
"Hudson morning Rotary Club is excited that we were able to help with the senior safety event," Sines said. "We believe that we all need to provide our students with everything they need to be successful in their future."
Fellow Rotary Club member Ronald Strobl agreed.
"With all the news of drugs, drinking and sexual abuse on college campuses, and the need of funding for Hudson Community First to address this problem, Rotary decided that this should be one of our featured beneficiaries of our auction," Strobl said. "We work closely with the Service Learning Class on many of their projects and fund five scholarships each year. We feel we have a stake in these young adults' futures and this gives us an opportunity to do that."
Kelly Kempf, director of the district's pupil services, has been involved with bringing the program to Hudson from the start. Talks began during a discussion at a Hudson Community First Advisory Board meeting.
"We all agreed our students are well prepared academically when they leave Hudson High School, and we wanted to try and provide something that would help them be prepared for the other challenging aspects of life after high school," Kempf said. "The goal was to prepare the students for this next chapter in their lives with strategies to help them stay safe and healthy."
Kempf said the program was "valuable for our seniors, and we hope to be able to continue to provide this opportunity for our students in the future."
"The seniors rotated between presentations on campus safety and awareness, what changes now that most students are 18, healthy relationships and date rape, anxiety/depression and overall wellness." Kempf said. "Students enjoyed a snack and lunch from Chipotle. They ended their day with the traditional senior meeting with [H.H.S. Principal] Wilch, giveaways, and the senior class photo. Although several serious topics were covered, we wanted the day to be enjoyable for the students as well."
Speakers included: Stow Municipal Court Judge Lisa Coates who presented on "What you need to know now that you are 18;" Todd Wickerham, assistant director in charge, Cleveland Division of the FBI who presented strategies to be safer on campus; Dr. Jason Miller, director of counseling and human development from Kent State University who discussed mental health issues, stress management and overall wellness; Julius Payne, education and outreach manager; and Tessa Hemmi, an education and outreach advocate from the Summit County Battered Women's Shelter who talked about healthy relationships, date rape and sexual assault.
"We were grateful to have such knowledgeable presenters to share these important topics with our students." Kempf said. "The district was very appreciative of the generous grant from the Hudson morning Rotary Club and the support and volunteers from Hudson Community First. The high school administration and several counselors were instrumental in helping to develop and implement a meaningful and enjoyable event for the students.
Kempf hopes to make this an annual event.
"Our seniors will be providing us feedback about the event via their senior exit survey at the end of the school year, she said. "We will use that feedback to continue to improve on the program and make it as valuable as possible for our students."
According to Kempf, several students shared with her that the information presented was relevant and things they needed to know.
"As a parent of a senior as well, I was grateful that my own daughter was able to participate," Kempf said. "At this very exciting time of life for our seniors, we want them to feel knowledgeable and empowered in the challenging situations they may face during their college years and beyond."
Kempf's daughter, Morgan, shared her thoughts on the program.
"I thought the day was very informative," according to Morgan. "I think it's important to recognize the district's efforts to provide a day for seniors full of information most young adults would have to otherwise figure out themselves."