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Real Talk benefits students, facilitators and community



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May 07, 2014 - By Katie Winkler

Review Staff Writer

After spending seven hours in school, students may tackle a part-time job and athletics on top of homework and studying.

What their parents and peers might not realize is what additional struggles they are facing. Last Tuesday and Thursday, high school students were given the chance to participate in Real Talk, held at the Cerc Building.

Michelle Novak, counselor at LOHS, explains that Real Talk is an event that happens twice a year (fall and spring) that "gives the kids an opportunity to talk where the adults listen. "We have twenty adult volunteers come and they just listen and talk about real topics like drugs, alcohol, social pressure, depression, suicide, and how they feel about themselves and their family," Novak said.

Novak and John Miles, teacher at LOHS, helped kick start Real Talk because they were beginning to "recognize the need for students to come together and socialize and emotionalize together," Miles said. "Too often in school, with good reason, we have to be focused on academics and they don't really have much of an outlet to talk about things elsewhere in their life that impact them greatly."

Real Talk began with games and activities, such as "Cross the Line." During this time, an adult called out issues that students may be dealing with, and students that it applied to took a step forward. The purpose is making students aware that others are dealing with the same problems. The morning session continued through till the afternoon, where they broke up into groups to discuss topics more in-depth.

This year was Michelle Kumfelmen seventh year as a facilitator at Real Talk. She was one of many that guided these small-group discussions.

"I had 14 kids [in my group] and they were all amazing. All were very diverse and had similar problems and were able to reflect with each other and share their experiences in their life and realize they're not alone," Kumfelmen said. "It may not affect everyone and everyone may not leave here and make total changes but there are a lot of kids that do and it does affect their life. It lets them know that there is hope at the end."

During these secluded discussions, they not only focused on negative issues, but also positive things, such as their own personal accomplishments. Among the students that participated in Real Talk was, senior Charles Highlen, who has participated the last few years, keeps coming back because he finds this event beneficial.

"Everyone goes back to the school and watches what they say because they now know that everyone has struggles throughout their life," Highlen said.

Novak hopes that students "realize they are not alone, that there are others just like them. They are very different on the outside, but very much the same on the inside." With the help of volunteers, leadership development workshop students and other teachers, Novak and Miles were able to make Real Talk an eye-opening experience for the 300 students that participated both days.

"I hope they get a greater sense of tolerance and acceptance and through that they can help influence others at being role models and leading by example," Miles said. "Ultimately, it benefits our entire community in a positive way."

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