Riverdale News & Stories
Seventh grader Michelle Wen had a close friend who appeared happy in their interactions, but whose social media postings told another story. As Michelle delved deeper, she learned that her friend was struggling with depression – and that this is an entirely too-common issue among young people today.
Michelle has used this personal experience to educate herself on what is often considered a taboo topic and has explored ways to spread knowledge and understanding to her peers. She was especially motivated to do something upon learning that depression affects at least 10 percent of all teenagers and realized that it likely impacts several of her Riverdale classmates, as well.
As she began exploring this problem and considering ways to educate her friends and provide hope to those who need it, a new program was launched by Riverdale’s Class of 1959 to provide funding that would enable Riverdale students to fulfill the school’s mission to “change our world for the good.”
More than 25 proposals from student groups and individuals were submitted this fall for the inaugural slate of 1959 Social Change Grants. Eight finalists were then selected to present their concepts to the Social Change Alumni Committee – comprised of Sue Rosenfeld Lehmann ’59, Geoff Howard ’59, Mike Otten ’59, and Mali Locke ’95 – and Michelle’s idea for an “Emotions Board” was one of four selected for a grant.
Michelle explained her project to the Middle School at an assembly on January 26: the Emotions Board would be a place where Riverdale students could post their feelings – both publicly and anonymously – in an effort to spread awareness and destigmatize emotions that many teens have each day. Almost immediately following the assembly, students began posting on the Emotions Board with color-coded markers, each representing a different type of feeling (anxiety, happiness, sadness, excitement, etc.). For those who wanted to express their thoughts privately, an “anonymous” box was placed next to the wall, and Michelle will post these messages weekly on students’ behalves.
In the following video, Michelle describes the story behind her project and why she was compelled to give voice to this important and often-silent issue.
The Emotions Board
Michelle Wen talks about her idea for a place where students can express their feelings.