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Aug. 14, 2020 | Friday
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Grade 8 conference focuses on mental health and wellness
From left, Bethany Poltl, Tiffany Leung, Hazel Norris, Jasmine Griese, Clara De Munnich and Nathan Van de Laar. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

NOTL Grade 8 students are coming together next week to talk about mental health.

The second annual Grade 8 Mental Health and Wellness Conference, organized by the Lord Mayor’s youth advisory council, is Monday, May 27.

The event has expanded since last year and will include four hands-on workshops and four speakers, said Bethany Poltl, a Grade 11 student and the youth council’s chair.

Around 140 Grade 8 students are expected to attend the half-day conference.

The keynote speaker this year is Dr. Ron Clavier, a psychologist and neuroscientist. Melissa Dunlop from the Niagara North Family Health Team will speak about nutrition and Karen Post from Red Roof Retreat will hold a workshop on goal-planning through vision boards. Vaping and smoking are among the other topics that will be covered at the conference.

When the event began last year, there was little information and few services in NOTL specifically addressing the youth’s mental health.

“(Mental health) is a big topic … I think it’s a very important topic for students to be discussing,” said Poltl.

Grade 12 student Tiffany Leung, who is also a member of the youth council, said she wishes there was an event like this when she was younger.

“I think I would’ve enjoyed coming to something like this,” she said.

Hazel Norris and Jasmine Griese, Grade 7 students at St. Michael Catholic School, said they are excited to meet people and have new opportunities as they transition into high school.

“I hope (the conference) encourages youth to watch their mental health and encourages them to want to have a good time,“ said Griese, while Norris expressed hopes the students “learn something about their mental state.”

Grade 9 student Nathan Van de Laar, who will be going to the conference for the first time this year, agreed that being a high school student allows him to meet different groups of people and gives him more freedom. 

Another member of the youth council, Clara De Munnich, said she hopes students learn something from the event.

“I know when I was 13, I was pretty ignorant. I hope they become enlightened by our very talented speakers,” she said.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero will also speak at the conference.

“It’s something that I’m very proud of, that they do. It’s youth helping youth,” Disero told The Lake Report. “It’s very important that young people sit down and talk about issues and how to deal with them. I think it’s very important for the town.”