Monday, October 15, 2018

The Financial Aid Process

by Amanda Padden

Last Thursday Justin Munio, Financial Aid Officer at Harvard, talked with Medfield families about the financial aid process. The presentation was offered through the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), which is a not-for-profit organization that helps families plan, save and pay for college. You can view the powerpoint on the guidance website to see the presentation, but I’ve included some main highlights and take away points below:
  • Check the financial aid website for all colleges you are applying to. Deadlines are very important. If you are applying early to colleges then financial aid documents may be due early as well.
  • The FAFSA and the CSS profile are the two forms that families typically have to complete. The FAFSA is free, but the CSS profile is not. Not all colleges require the CSS profile.
  • There are multiple sources of financial aid:
    • Federal Aid: You can get this by completing the FAFSA. This aid comes in the form of grants, loans, tax incentives and work study
    • Massachusetts Aid: Grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, and loans. (John and Abigail Adams scholarship determined by MCAS scores)
    • Institutional aid- offered by the individual colleges in the form of grants, work study, and scholarships.
    • Merit scholarships- some schools offer merit scholarships based on academics, athletics, the arts, etc. Many highly selective colleges (like the Ivys) don’t offer it because everyone is high achieving in the applicant pool.
    • Scholarships- local scholarships (Medfield students will get information about these in March) and scholarships from other agencies.
    • Of note- parent loans are NOT financial aid. You’ll want to look for grants, scholarships and student loans on the financial aid award letter.
  • Cost of Attendance
    • Direct expenses- tuition, fees, room/board
    • Personal expenses: books, travel, etc.
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC)- This is the minimum amount a family should be expected to pay for one student for one year. This is redetermined every year. An increase in income increases a family’s EFC. Savings does increase it, but only slightly.
  • Financial Aid Eligibility (need) is calculated by taking the COA and subtracting the EFC. Every college has a net price calculator on their website. Families can enter their personal information on each college’s website and get an estimate of their EFC.
  • Many colleges offer payment plans throughout the year so you do not have to pay your EFC in one lump sum.
The financial aid process can feel overwhelming for many families, but there are a lot of resources available that can help. Check out the following:

  • FAFSA Day is November 4th- families can get free assistance with filling out the FAFSA from a financial aid officer. Click here to view FAFSA day locations and to register:
  • MEFA offers After the College Acceptance seminars where families can get assistance with reviewing award letters and discuss loans, payment plans and questions that families should ask the financial aid office. These seminars are in March and April.
Always feel free to contact financial aid offices directly to ask questions. They are there to help!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

7th Grade Students turn FAILURE into a Positive

by Jen Dondero

In 7th grade guidance classes, students are discussing resiliency and how to respond to adversity. Students were asked to create their Mount Rushmore of the most successful American Presidents. Approximately, 98% of students listed Abraham Lincoln as being a President they viewed as highly successful. I pointed out to students that Abraham Lincoln was a big FAILURE until the age of 51. 

For reference here are a list of his major failures
1831: Failed in business.
1832: Ran for state legislature – lost.
1832: Also lost his job – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
1834: Ran for state legislature again – won.
1836: Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – defeated.
1840: Sought to become elector – defeated.
1843: Ran for Congress – lost.
1846: Ran for Congress again – this time he won – went to Washington and did a good job.
1848: Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state – rejected.
1854: Ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
1856: Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – got less than 100 votes.
1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again – again he lost.
It was not until 1860 that he was elected President and became one of the great American Presidents.

Students discussed how previous adversity made them stronger. Students gave examples such as not making a sports team or doing poorly on a test. They said it was important that they reflected on their mistakes and worked to make improvements. The final piece was taking the word FAILURE and turning it into something positive by creating acrostic poems. Please see two examples in the pictures. Mr. Vaughn will tell you that avoiding failure is never good. If we aren't making mistakes we are not learning. Ask your students how they failed today. How did the adversity feel and what did they learn from it?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Start With Hello

by Russ Becker

This week, Medfield’s R.E.N.E.W Project and Friends of Rachel club have been hard at work promoting the “Start With Hello” Movement. Start With Hello is put on by Sandy Hook Promise and it aims increase the welcoming nature of our school while decreasing social isolation among our students. The movement began with a simple idea that if you see someone by themselves, isolated and alone, sometime all you have to do is say hello to make them a part of your community. All week we have had students reading announcements to highlight the spirit of the movement, and we have handed out bingo boards that will encourage students to talk to others they may not know very well. Tomorrow our week concludes with a photo booth and a signed pledge to foster social inclusion at lunch. If you would like to know more please reach out and don’t forget to Start With Hello!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Medfield Schools Attend D.A. Morrissey’s Collaborative Problem Solving Seminar

Press Release from the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office

Nationally acclaimed speaker and author Dr. J. Stuart Ablon, a Psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, was the guest of Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey at an all-day training to help school districts deal with and find durable solutions to the most challenging and disruptive behaviors.

“The year after New York Police began training their school safety officers in Dr. Ablon’s ‘Think:Kids’ Collaborative Problem Solving® model in 2013, there was a 58 percent decrease in arrests made at school and 20 percent decrease in the reports of major crimes,” District Attorney Morrissey said. “Norfolk County schools may have different issues than any metropolis, but the solutions he offers work across demographics.”

More than 110 educators, school nurses, psychologists and adjustment counselors – including 40 school resource officers – took part in the September 20 event including Russ Becker, the adjustment counselor for Blake Middle and Medfield High School.

“Dr. Ablon’s methods are simple, but not easy. They start from the premise, rooted in research, that most kids ‘do well if they can’,” Morrissey said. “When they act out in school, the adults around them can be trained to work with them to identify, then teach the skills they need to succeed.”

The “Think: Kids” method is the opposite of permissiveness, but also avoids ineffective punishment models, Morrissey said. Instead, educators and school resource officers are trained in Collaborative Problem Solving – meaning the students are strategically engaged in coming up with resolutions to the conflict. In doing so, they improve skills that will prevent the problem from recurring.

“The new criminal justice reform act changes the role of school resource officers, removing them from enforcing school rules and discipline,” District Attorney Morrissey said. “Our training today provides information on research-based interventions being used across the country to address challenging student behavior without resorting to police powers or punitive steps.”

The research shows that collaborative problem solving creates more durable solutions to problematic behavior than either permissiveness or punitive action, and the District Attorney also sees benefits for the students as they age into adulthood.

“Helping students overcome poor impulse control, inability to manage irritability or disappointment, or help them learn to manage conflict – all while still in the safe environment of a school – can only help their future,” Morrissey said. “Spend a morning in any district courtroom and you will see petty assaults, property destruction and other crimes that arise from the same skill deficits.”

The conference was held in seminar space donated by the Bank of Canton at its corporate headquarters.

Contributed Photo info: Medfield Middle and High School Adjustment Counselor Russell Becker, left, joined more than 100 of his colleagues from across Norfolk County at the all-day training on effectively dealing with challenging behavior in schools hosted by Norfolk DA Michael W. Morrissey, right

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Lesson in Resiliency... from a Kindergarten Science Experiment

by Erik Ormberg

My wife and I will be completing our nineteenth year in education this spring. So, when a cool lesson is presented--or a gifted speaker inspires us--the topics oftentimes make their way to our dinner table. Last week my wife shared with me a story about a science project that I thought might resonate with the high school population.

Her kindergarten class planted four plants.
  • Plant 1 was the CONTROL (It got everything...sun, soil, water and plant food)
  • Plant 2 got NO WATER
  • Plant 3 got NO SOIL
  • Plant 4 got NO LIGHT
In the photo above you see plant 4’s (NO LIGHT) leaves and stems peeking out on the side of the box, fighting for sunlight. No WATER and no SOIL never flourished, but no LIGHT fought hard for the one thing it needed. Sunlight.

Once they took the NO LIGHT plant out of the box the students so how it had grown stronger and longer than the CONTROL plant that had everything it needed. The NO LIGHT plant had a better foundation for growth--or a better drive for growth.

This got me thinking about how much we provide our students. How we are often tempted to “clear a path for kids” as opposed to giving them what Malcolm Gladwell calls, “desirable difficulties.”

Do we set out for an “adversity-free” life for kids? Are we better serving students when the adversity teaches us a lesson that better prepares us for larger events later in life?

When students “earn” their way into an upper level course, or a spot on the team or a place on Student Government or National Honor Society there comes an intrinsic sense of worth and accomplishment. Similar to plant 4 these students have to stretch themselves a little further and work a little harder to get to where they want to go.

When I spoke to a student once about an English placement, she told me that her mom could have signed an override into honors, but the student wanted to “work her way” into the class as opposed to “signing her way” into the class. One mother told me, when her son lost eligibility for a sport due to a chemical health violation, “I want my kid to do three things, show remorse, repent and repeat.” One student embraced the challenge of earning her way into a class and one parent understood that discipline can teach. Someone once said, “it’s hard to learn a lesson from a mistake when there isn’t a consequence.”

As graduation looms for our seniors I think about the students who have earned so much of the accolades before them. The student on an IEP who overcame a learning difference. The kid who came to school actively willing to learn--doing what was asked of them minus the support of a parent, tutor or college coach. The child that was socially marginalized throughout high school but took counsel in one trusted adult or leaned on the acceptance of one common peer.

All of these students walk among us here at MHS. Some have managed their adversity with profound courage. Upon graduation most of our students will build on the identity they created here at MHS. Some will also be allowed to recreate that identity once they leave MHS.

Come Monday morning after the All Night Graduation Party I feel as though all our graduates become one again. They are all the same; on equal, yet uncertain, footing. The cliques are forced to change once the diplomas are in hand. All the unique differences that defined them melt away. One final time, as a class, they become whole again as they transition into the role of MHS alumni. Frightening thought for some--refreshing thought for others.

Amazing things can happen when “creative friction” exists or when a mountain appears before us--and we are forced to climb it knowing there is a reward on top. The goal maybe invisible at certain junctures, but crystal clear at other points. It has also been said that we “are much more sure-footed walking uphill than downhill.”

As our seniors shuffle out of MHS and into their newly found landing spaces we hope they bring with them an element of resiliency. We hope that they possess that special trait that allows them to assimilate to an unknown environment where conditions are not always optimal, but those conditions force them to reach further and grow stronger.

A picture of the NO LIGHT plant which grew longer and stronger than the CONTROL plant.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Technology and Apps to Support Mental Health and Mindfulness

By Stephanie Worthley

The MHS Counselors spent time this summer creating a toolbox of resources for our students to use when struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Apps and websites can be effective in making therapy more accessible, efficient, and portable. The MHS Counselors used Summer R&D time to research apps and websites that can most efficiently help students whether at school or that they can access at home.

The following apps have all been reviewed and previewed by the MHS Counselors and may prove to be helpful in times of stress:

    Calm is the #1 app for meditation and sleep. Join the millions experiencing lower stress, less anxiety, and more restful sleep with our guided meditations, Sleep Stories, breathing programs, masterclasses, and relaxing music. Recommended by top psychologists, therapists, and mental health experts.
    Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.
    Topics include:
* Calming Anxiety * Managing Stress * Deep Sleep * Focus and Concentration * Relationships
* Breaking Habits * Happiness * Gratitude * Self-Esteem * Body Scan * Loving-Kindness
* Forgiveness * Non-judgement * Commuting to work or school * Mindfulness at College
* Mindfulness at Work * Walking meditation * Calm Kids * And so much more...

Headspace is the simple way to reframe stress. Sleep trouble? Meditation creates the ideal conditions for a good night’s rest. Relax with guided meditations and mindfulness techniques that bring calm, wellness and balance to your life in just a few minutes a day.

Calm Harm
Calm Harm provides tasks to help you resist or manage the urge to self-harm. The app then provides you with four categories of tasks to help you surf the urge. ‘Distract' helps in learning self-control; ‘Comfort' helps you care rather than harm; 'Express Yourself' gets those feelings out in a different way and ‘Release' provides safe alternatives to self-injury. There is also a ‘Breathe' category to help calm and get back in control.
Calm Harm has been developed for teenage mental health charity stem4 by Dr Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist using the basic principles of an evidence based treatment called Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT).

Safety Plan
Suicidal thoughts can seem like they will last forever – but these thoughts and feelings pass with time. This app is designed to support those dealing with suicidal thoughts and help prevent suicide.
Having a plan in place that can help guide you through difficult moments can help you cope and keep you safe. A safety plan is designed so that you can start at the beginning and continue through the steps. You can customize your own warning signs that a crisis may be developing, coping strategies for dealing with suicidal urges, places for distraction, friends and family members you can reach out to, professionals you can call, methods of making your environment safe, and your own important reasons for living.
If following your safety plan is not enough to stem a suicidal crisis, then this app also contains an easy-to-access list of emergency resources so that help is just a tap away. For long-term recovery, we provide a thorough guide to dealing with suicidal thoughts.

Struggling with anxiety? Tired of missing out? There are things you can do to stop anxiety and fear from controlling your life. MindShift is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It can help you change how you think about anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxiety, you can make an important shift and face it.
MindShift will help you learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help you take charge of your anxiety.

Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool which provides detailed information on the effects of stress on the body and instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing.Breathing exercises have been documented to decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management.

If you are feeling sad, anxious, or depressed, lift your mood with MoodTools! MoodTools is designed to help you combat depression and alleviate your negative moods, aiding you on your road to recovery.
MoodTools contains several different research-supported tools. They include:
  - Thought Diary - Improve your mood by analyzing your thoughts and identifying negative / distorted thinking patterns based on principles from Cognitive Therapy
  - Activities - Regain your energy by performing energizing activities and tracking your mood before and after, based on Behavioral Activation Therapy
  - Safety Plan - Develop a suicide safety plan to keep you safe and utilize emergency resources during a suicidal crisis
  - Information - Read information, self-help guidelines, and find help with internet resources
  - Test - Take the PHQ-9 depression questionnaire and track your symptom severity over time
  - Video - Discover helpful YouTube videos that can improve your mood and behavior, from guided meditations to enlightening TED talks

Booster Buddy
Manage your personal wellness journey and earn achievements as your sidekick guides you through a series of daily quests designed to establish and sustain positive habits.
•Check-in with how you are feeling each day
•Use coping skills
•Keep track of appointments and medications
•Get started on tasks
•Follow self-care routines
•Increase real-life socialization

YouTube: Marconi Union
Relax and restore your mind body and soul
Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent
The group that created "Weightless", Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener's heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.