East hosts annual TALK to form student relationships

Students and staff participate in a team building activity as a part of TALK. Photo courtesy of Julie Ruiz.

Last Thursday, Feb. 22, East once again hosted Teens Activating a Language of Kindness (TALK), an in-school field trip where students spend the day performing team building exercises and forming relationships with others.

With years of praise of the program coming from previous participants, over 20 leaders and 100 students signed up for TALK this year. 

Senior Jack Ludolph, who was a TALK coordinator, spoke highly of his previous TALK experience.

“I had heard so many amazing things about TALK,” Ludolph said. “People saying it was one of the best things they had ever done in their life, so I figured I wanted to be a part of this experience. I just came out of it feeling like … I wanted this to be a big part of my high school experience.”

As over 100 students entered East on Thursday morning, they were split into groups of 10, each with two leaders. The day began with a message from a pair of Keynote speakers, returning guest Eddie Speaks, and East Alumni Mackenzie Jones.

Students spend the day at TALK without their phones, encouraging them to engage with their peers around them.

At the beginning of the day, students are still unfamiliar with their groups, but gain comfort through each activity they complete. This allows them to feel more comfortable sharing the more intimate details of their lives with their groups. 

Senior TALK coordinator Jessica Williams cites one particular activity, “If You Knew me You Would Know…”, as one of her favorites. 

The activity begins with a simple prompt, as groups form a circle, sharing facts that you wouldn’t be able to determine at face value. 

“Usually it starts off very surface-level, like … favorite colors,” Williams says. “But as you get into it, people might open up about their ADHD or anxiety, and you see people that you’ve seen every day.”

Ludolph said that talk helped him to understand his peers in a deeper way. 

“You realize that you are a lot more alike your peers than different,” Ludolph said. 

One of TALK’s goals is for its participants to come away with a new group of friends, people that they may never have gotten to know otherwise. Senior Leader Emily York mentions how her initial talk experience and the friends she made were what inspired her to return to TALK for her third year. 

“Freshman year, I had a really good group of a lot of upperclassmen, and we still talk to each other a lot on snap,” York said. “Having that group of kids that are completely random to talk to, you know, I just want to be that for someone.”

Counselor Tiffany Morrelli says that TALK fulfills its purpose, allowing students to put aside their differences and come together year after year. 

“From the moment they walk in the PAC to the end of the day at 2:30, it’s really cool to see how barriers are broken down,” Morelli said. “Everybody is just ‘come as you are.’”

TALK will be held again on Mar. 16, 2023. 

Jackson Wezeman is a staff editor for Oswego East’s online news magazine The Howl.

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