Thursday, February 8, 2018

GAP Year Programs

by Amanda Padden

       On Friday, February 2nd, Gap year representatives from Dynamy Internship Year, EF Gap Year, Rustic Pathways, and City Year spoke with interested 10th-12th grade students and their parents. A Gap year is an "experiential semester or year typically taken between high school and college (or whatever your future plan may be) in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness." Below you can find a summary of what each of the programs has to offer.

Dynamy: This program provides students an opportunity to explore potential careers and learn to live independently. Students live in Dynamy provided apartments in Worcester with other Dynamy students and attend their internship site roughly 28 hours a week. 200+ internships are offered, in careers a such as animal care, business, film, radio, and teaching - there’s something for everyone. Depending upon the whether students choose the full year or semester option, students will have between one and three internships. Mondays are workshop days where students learn about communication, independent living, and professional skills. They also have a chance to participate in college seminars offered through Clark University and earn up to 12 college credits. College counseling is available as well.

At the beginning of the program, students spend a week in Maine on an outdoor adventure retreat where they bond with staff and other students before the Gap year begins. Dynamy offers need based financial aid and has rolling admission throughout a student’s senior year until spots are filled.They also offer tours and informational interviews. Check out their website at

EF Gap Year: EF is the same company that Medfield uses for its China and Italy trips. EF Gap Year offers students a chance to travel, learn or continue a world language, participate in community service, and intern in a field of interest. The program starts with an orientation at a castle in London (seriously!) where students get to know their cohort of Gap year students. As part of the orientation they will travel on a welcome tour to London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and Barcelona. After this, students will spend six weeks taking language courses at one of EF’s seven language schools in cities like Paris, Barcelona, Tamarindo, and Tokyo while staying with a host family. Next, students will participate in a six-week service learning project in one of six international destinations like the Dominican Republic, Nepal, Peru or Tanzania. Students return home for the holidays and have the option to attend a college application seminar.

When they return from break, students travel on a three week cultural immersion tour in Australia and New Zealand. After that students will start their business internship (offered in eleven international cities) where they will live with another EF Gap year student. The Gap Year ends with a Leadership Academy at the castle in London where students learn leadership skills followed by a tour of Scotland and Ireland where they practice those skills.

If students choose to participate for one semester they will only choose two of three options (service, language, internship) and will not travel to Australia and New Zealand. Applications are rolling until May 31st or until spots fill up. Students can enroll as early as their junior year, but most apply during senior year.

Rustic Pathways: This program offers students an opportunity to travel abroad and participate in community service. Students pick a region of interest and will travel to various countries within that region while participating in different service projects. There are typically fifteen students in a group, two program leaders, and local guides in each destination. Examples of programs are Spanish Immersion and Service and South Pacific Service and Ocean Skills.

Other specialized programs like “Come with Nothing” offers an experience where students bring one carry on bag and five items and have to shop for clothes and other supplies at a local market to sustain them throughout the trip. Students will live, work, and participate in community service.

Dates vary depending on the program destination. Rustic Pathways also offers summer programs if students do not want to participate during the academic year. Scholarships are offered and program applications deadlines vary. Check out their website at

City Year: This program is for students interested in dedicating a year of service to students who are at risk of dropping out of school. City Year volunteers focus on student attendance, behavior, and the their ability to access the curriculum. City Year volunteers are assigned to a classroom where there is a primary teacher. Volunteers build relationships with the students in the classroom who are most at risk. Volunteers will be trained for one month before they are assigned to a site. Volunteers can choose to live at home or be assigned to a site in another US city and live in an apartment. Volunteers receive a stipend of roughly $630 every two weeks and can apply through City Year for food stamps to pay for groceries. Volunteers are in the classroom Mondays through Thursdays and spend Fridays with their City Year cohort.

Upon completion of the program, volunteers earn a financial award called the Segal Education Award of roughly $6,000 which can be used to pay off college debt or be put toward future schooling. City Year partners with colleges like Wheelock and Bentley which offer students incredible financial aid awards to City year alums. The application process includes talking with a recruiter, filling out an application, and having an interview. There are various deadlines throughout a student’s senior year with the next deadline coming up in early March, 2018. This is a well known program that has a huge alumni network. Many graduates of City Year are later hired by City year alums. This is a great opportunity for students interested in careers in education, helping professions, and working with youth.

       Guidance counselors are available to work individually with students on the Gap year application process. See your counselor if you are interested in a Gap year or stop by the guidance office to explore the brochures. We want students to know that college is not the only option when it comes to future planning. As always, the guidance counselors look forward to helping students find a future plan that is both exciting and a great match for their skills and interests.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Welcome Ms. St. Jean

We would like to congratulate Mrs. Anne Lodge on the birth of her baby boy, Thomas Edward Lodge! While Mrs. Lodge is out on her maternity leave, we would like to welcome Ms. Julia St. Jean to the MHS Guidance Department. Ms. St. Jean is a graduate of Boston College and was a Mater's Level Research Assistant at Northwestern University. Most recently, Ms. St. Jean has been working as a Guidance Counselor at Bishop Fenwick High School. We are excited to have Ms. St. Jean join our department. Please welcome Ms. St. Jean to MHS!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Teen Depression and Suicide Linked to Smartphone Use

by Kathy Mahoney

NPR recently published a story about the dangerous connection between smartphones, depression, and suicide rates in teens. Research has shown a sharp increase in depression symptoms, suicide risk factors, and suicide rates in teens since 2012, coinciding with the time smartphones became popular.

The study found that teens who spend five or more hours a day on their phones are 71% more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. The amount of screen time, no matter the content, correlated to higher rates of depression.

The author of the study stated that “three hours a day and beyond is where you saw the more pronounced increase in those who had at least one suicide risk factor."

Recommendations for parents included limiting use to two hours per day or less. When not using smartphones, teens should be engaging in activities that promote mental health, such as exercising, seeing friends and family face to face, sleeping, and getting outside. Furthermore, the author reports that the ideal age that a teen should get a smartphone is 14, when they enter high school. Studies show that younger teens may be more vulnerable to the demands of social media.

To read the article in full, click here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Finsta! What is it?

by Stephanie Worthley

Image result for finsta

It's not just Instagram and Snapchat teenagers are using to express themselves. More and more teenagers are creating a Finsta - a fake Instagram account. Because Instagram now allows users to create and toggle quickly between multiple accounts, teens starting creating Finsta accounts in addition to their Instagram account. Why would someone create a Finsta account? Basically, teenagers are using their Finsta accounts to hide posts from their parents, teachers, employers, coaches, and even other peers. 

Finsta is a place where teenagers can be themselves outside of the filter-driven, perfect-photo culture of Instagram. While most teenagers often post to Instagram to gather a high number of likes and quick compliments, on Finsta, it is understood that likes, perfect photos, and comments are not the goal. Instead, many can post photos to express their real feelings, post imperfect photos, and share feelings that they may not always feel comfortable sharing in public. However, this is a place where teenagers are showing off pictures of illegal activities, such as drinking, drugs, parties, or sexual pictures - pictures that they would never post in a more public Instagram account (like the account their parents and family members are following). Finsta accounts are created to throw parents off of the teenagers digital path. Finsta accounts usually have fewer followers and engage with only a close circle of friends.

Here are some Finsta Realities:
  • Most teenage have a Finsta (although they will deny, deny, deny); while teenage girls dominate the space, boys are also active despite playing a less active role. Most teens (regardless of frequency of use) keep a Finsta account to remain privy to social hierarchy and look out for their own eventual targeting by other users.
  • It is more common to have a Finsta, than to not have a Finsta. Why? The platform allows teens to celebrate their social improprieties despite articulating or simulating remorse to parents and school officials. In other words, they are able to maintain a “sorry, I’m not sorry” persona on social media, while articulating the opposite in the public setting.
  • Although Finstas may begin with good intentions, most ultimately digress into a conduit for cyber aggression, or fan the flames of social drama in the form of likes, comments and regrams.
  • Finstas that create mental, social or emotional trauma are subject to school-related discipline if and when they eventually bleed into and disrupt the school learning environment. The lines of outside bullying and school have become increasingly blurred by social media platforms.
  • Upon discovery, teens easily (and alarmingly) convince parents the Finsta is “only a joke” or “actually never used”, and quickly change their handle (name) to advance the premise that it has been deleted. Rarely, if ever, do they actually delete their Finsta.
Ask your son or daughter to show you their Finsta account. It may be difficult to find it, depending on the account name and the photo that is used to create the profile picture.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bright Kids Who Can't Keep Up

by Matt Marenghi

Over the course of middle school, academic standards and expectations naturally progress and students must meet the increasing demands. Among all the reasons that a student could possibly have difficulty meeting such demands, I’ve often learned “processing speed” is the culprit. The book Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up provides both a thorough understanding of processing speed and practical approaches to support students who are adversely affected by it.

From the author’s work with Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) out of Massachusetts General Hospital, the book indicates that 77% of children with processing speed deficits were currently receiving formalized IEP or 504 support, further indicating the overwhelming impact processing speed has on academic progress.

The book explains processing speed as an executive functioning skill, making it analogous to the engine of a car; having a more powerful and/or efficient engine will allow the car to move faster and/or run more efficiently. Processing speed has implications for a child’s home environment, social life, and emotional stability/well-being. This book struck a chord with my parental lens with the following passage:
Studies have shown that when family members argue, both volume and rate of speech increase dramatically - as much as two to three times - which should be no shock to anyone who’s had a passionate discussion or disagreement with someone.

This speaks to the patience that is necessary in supporting children with processing speed issues, and how a lack thereof can only dramatically exacerbate frustrating situations.

Further to this end, I did find this book to likely be more valuable for parents than for educators (though it is by no means not valuable for educators :) It really confronts the more intimate issues relative to processing speed issues, but does a great job of offering practical strategies to manage them. Thematically weaved into the book is the strategy of implementing the “Three As”: Accept, Accommodate, and Advocate.

In my professional role of supporting students, this book boosted my confidence and thickened the context by which I can have these types of conversations with families. I recommend it both to anyone just entering, or in the thick of these types of conversations.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Swimming with the Sharks - A Take on Selective Admissions


by Kathy Mahoney

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the National Conference for NACAC - the National Association for College Admission Counseling. My first session focused on how best to counsel students and families in a competitive and demanding admissions climate. There are thousands of students applying to each school, and colleges have the difficult job of building an admissible class. This task includes denying talented students, many of whom meet the admissions criteria and would make fantastic students at their institution. With the number of applications rising and admissions rates falling, it’s no wonder that students and families feel like they are left swimming with the sharks. Here are two big takeaways to keep in mind as you go through the process.

     1). There is no such thing as fairness in the admission process. It’s easy to compare yourself with others around you, but try not to fall into that trap. “I have a better GPA than Johnny, but Johnny got in and I didn’t. That’s not fair.” However, Johnny plays the oboe and the college happens to be short one oboe player. GPA clearly wasn’t the only factor in this admission decision. The following year, Sarah says, “I have a better GPA than Johnny did and I’m a better oboe player!” Well, the school doesn’t need an oboe player anymore; their institutional priorities have shifted. Fairness in college admissions just isn’t possible.

     2). Think outside the box! In this case, the box is the Northeast and West Coast. These schools have been hit by increasing amounts of applications, leading to tougher standards and lower admission rates. By contrast, there are hundreds of great schools everywhere in between that might be a perfect fit for you! Colleges like geographic diversity and may be more likely to admit a candidate from a state that has little representation at their school. Keep an open mind and look at schools outside of our region to increase your likelihood of admission. There are some real gems out there!

Remember to work with your guidance counselor to come up with a list of colleges that is right for you. We look forward to helping you!