Highlights from around the district
Building on the tremendous success of its inaugural efforts in 2021, the Everett Public Schools (EPS) has scheduled a full array of special events, celebrations and discussions in honor of Black History Month. All events will be held virtually and broadcast via YouTube Live. Links will be available on the EPS website throughout the month.
“Launching the district’s engaging Black History Month programming was one of the major bright spots of last school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani. “This year, I am proud to attach the word ‘Annual’ to this important part of our district’s calendar.”
The schedule was developed by the members of Everett High School’s Young Black Excellence Society (YBES) with the assistance of YBES Advisor/Guidance Counselor Sashae Walls and EPS Chief Equity Officer Cory McCarthy. Following an introductory event on February 1, the events shifted into high gear with the EPS Cultural Expo on Wednesday, February 2. The Expo featured creative art/digital art, music and spoken word/poetry. Other events will follow throughout the month, culminating in the Equity in Young Adult Education Night on February 28.
While serving as Vice Principal of Everett High School in 2002-2021, McCarthy developed the district’s first-ever Black History Month series. “We have assembled another thoughtful, informative, educational, entertaining, and dynamic program this February,” he said. “If you did not participate in and/or attend any of our sessions last year, please do so this year. We have put a lot of time and effort into this initiative, and we want as many members of the community as possible to take part.”
“The schedule is designed for maximum impact for students and participants, and a wide cross section of topics and interests are represented on the schedule,” said Tahiliani.
In addition to the Art Expo, the Black Diaspora Educator Night (February 8) and Divine 9 Night (February 9) are being renewed due to their popularity last year. Black Educator Night will feature teachers from Everett and beyond who will discuss their experiences and careers. The Divine 9 is the name given to a group of sororities and fraternities formed at the start of the 20th century, mainly at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Divine 9 organizations were heavily involved in several social justice movements, such as Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter.
The rest of this year’s lineup features new topics, events and discussions, including:
- February 15: Mental Health in the Black Community.
- February 16: EPS Alumni Night.
- February 17: Pro Athletes of Color Night.
- February 24: History of Hip-Hop featuring Dart Adams, a journalist, lecturer and the host of the podcast “Boston Legends.”
Also new this year: Speak Your Mind Fridays, three half-hour afterschool sessions that will give students and staff the chance to talk freely in a safe and encouraging environment.
February holidays, celebrations, observances
February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada. Since 1976 the month has been designated to remember the contributions of people of the African diaspora.
- February 1: Lunar New Year, one of the most sacred of all traditional Chinese holidays, a time of family reunion and celebration. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated at this time in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Mongolia.
- February 1: National Freedom Day, which celebrates the signing of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States in 1865.
- February 3: Setsubun-sai (beginning of spring); in Japan this is the day before the beginning of spring, which is celebrated annually as part of the Spring Festival.
- February 5: Vasant Panchami, the Hindu festival that highlights the coming of spring. On this day Hindus worship Saraswati Devi, the goddess of wisdom, knowledge, music, art and culture.
- February 14: St. Valentine’s Day, a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus. This holiday is typically associated with romantic love and celebrated by people expressing their love with gifts.
- February 15: Lantern Festival, the first significant feast after the Chinese New Year; participants enjoy watching paper lanterns illuminate the sky on the night of the event.
- February 15: Parinirvana Day (or Nirvana Day), the commemoration of Buddha’s death at the age of 80, when Buddhists believe he reached Nirvana.
- February 16: Maghi Purnima, a Hindu festival especially for worshippers of Lord Vishnu; devotees take a holy bath on this day and also carry out charity work.
- February 16: Magha Puja Day (also written as Makha Bucha Day), a Buddhist holiday that marks an event early in the Buddha’s teaching life when a group of 1,250 enlightened saints ordained by the Buddha gathered to pay their respect to him; it is celebrated on various dates in different countries.
- February 21: Presidents’ Day, a federally recognized celebration in the United States that honors the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as well as those of every U.S. president.
- February 25–March 1: The Intercalary Days (or Ayyám-i-Há), a Bahá’í faith celebration; at this time, days are added to the Bahá’í calendar to maintain their solar calendar. Intercalary Days are observed with gift-giving, special acts of charity and preparation for the fasting that precedes the New Year.
- February 27: Meatfare Sunday (the Sunday of the Last Judgment), traditionally the last day before Easter of eating meat for Orthodox Christians.
Social and Emotional Wellness
As part of its ongoing efforts to craft and implement an enduring and effective social and emotional wellness (SELWELL) curriculum, the EPS has launched two initiatives that teachers can weave into their instruction and implement in their classrooms. Mental Health First Aid and Calming Corners are proven methods in helping educators recognize and address mental health challenges, either in the moment or by referring students to the appropriate professionals and service providers. Under the direction of EPS Manager of Social/Emotional Learning and Wellness Patrick Quigley, professional development in Mental Health First Aid and Calming Corners have been extended to Everett teachers to learn and implement these strategies.
“One of the absolute worst things about the pandemic has been its impact on the social and emotional well-being of our students,” said Tahiliani. “It is our responsibility to recognize and address this by embedding proven SELWELL practices into our classroom and school environments.”
Mental Health First Aid is a nationally recognized certification program designed to train and certify non-mental health professionals with the concrete skills to recognize, respond and refer people exhibiting mental health or substance-use difficulties to appropriate care. The training stresses early detection and intervention by teaching participants about the signs and symptoms of specific illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and addictions. The program offers concrete tools and answers key questions like “What can I do to support this student?” and “Where can someone find mental health help in Everett?” Participants are introduced to local mental health professionals and resources, national support organizations and online tools for mental health and addictions treatment.
The program is popular nationally, as the National Council for Mental Wellbeing has certified more than one million through a network of 12,000 Mental Health First Aid instructors. Quigley is a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor and is working with local community partners to bring this important training to our community of teachers and school support staff. Once 10 percent of EHS staff are certified in Mental Health First Aid, Everett Public Schools will have the option of bringing this learning opportunity to 16- to 18-year-old students in the district.
Calming Corners refers to a quiet area of a classroom equipped with soft furnishings and soothing materials to help a student who might be feeling stressed or upset. The spaces are meant to be positive, not punitive – places that reward students for recognizing that they need to take a break before they can re-engage in learning. Calming Corners is a recognized Tier 1 SELWELL strategy, which refers to teaching approaches and tools available universally to all students in EPS classrooms.
Beginning this month, the district is launching a partnership with author/educator Dr. Amy Ballin to bring Calming Corners to classrooms through a professional development course. Each participant will earn a $750.00 grant award to create a Calming Corner or expand an existing Corner in their classroom. Participants will also receive a stipend to install a Calming Corner in their classroom.
“Our teachers and staff are doing an exceptional job in exceptional circumstances,” said Tahiliani. “We believe these opportunities will only enhance the thoughtful and positive work they are already doing every day.”
Everett High School is thrilled to announce that 10 sophomores have been accepted into Summer Search, a seven-year mentorship program that supports students through college and other post-secondary pursuits. Summer Search is a national organization with locations in several major cities. While it extends opportunities to Everett students, it is not funded by the EPS or a formal partner of the district. Students and families pursue Summer Search’s mentoring programming independently.
Summer Search provides comprehensive support through one-on-one mentorship from trained staff, peer-led group mentorship, career development, goal setting and adventurous summer travel experiences. Summer Search serves students who dream of a college education and who could most benefit from experiential opportunities and mentoring to reach that dream. Its students live in households with a median family income of $24,000.
Summer Search offers high-touch mentoring and summer developmental opportunities that together strengthen the beliefs and skills students need to succeed. Its model is grounded in current research on adolescence and educational attainment and capitalizes on the unique opportunities present during this developmental period.
Every Summer Search student is paired with a staff mentor who builds an authentic and long-lasting relationship and provides individualized support for many facets of a student’s life, including navigating the complex college process, discussing their identity, and everything in between at school, at home and in the community. In addition, Summer Search provides challenging summer experiential (wilderness, community service, academic programs, internships) opportunities.
“Congratulations to our EHS sophomores for being accepted into the Summer Search mentorship program, which has a wide and well-earned reputation in urban education circles for providing unparalleled opportunities to its students,” said Tahiliani.