The Peer Leadership Fellowship is a signature program of the Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) that trains and empowers teens in grades 10 through 12 to become communal connectors.  The Wellness Cohort works to remove the stigmas surrounding mental health and wellness, educating themselves and their peers through group learning and programmatic opportunities. JTI partners with BaMidbar and other local and national partners to provide high-level training in awareness, advocacy, relational engagement and leadership development.

On May 5, we invite teens to take a break and join The Wellness Cohort of the Jewish Teen Initiative of Boston (JTI) for an afternoon of decompressing and de-stressing. Our focus will be removing your worries from your hectic schedules, upcoming tests and/or social stressors. Instead, we welcome you to pet a baby animal, create art, or even just allow yourself to vent! 

The Wellness Cohort (a group of Jewish teens who have spent all year learning how to reduce stigma in the Jewish community) has been working hard to create a day that provides the unique opportunity for something that does not happen enough in our society: prioritizing mental health. We want you to leave feeling better than when you arrived!

This time of the year can be hard to manage, with tests, homework, and social obstacles. We have come to the conclusion that everyone is stressed, and overwhelmed. That is why we are bringing an afternoon that will be entirely focused on helping teens to decompress. Our goal is to help you walk away feeling less stressed and with more strategies that you can use in the future. There will be opportunities to connect with other stressed teens in the Jewish community. We hope this afternoon will be like taking a giant, collective, deep breath, letting go, at least for an afternoon, of all the stressors in your life.

Our JTI Wellness Cohort is committed to understanding and destigmatizing mental health issues. We have been meeting once a month since September and have had meaningful discussions about mental health. We planned this seminar where we will share our findings and experiences with you. Destigmatizing mental health is essential to helping everyone feel comfortable to seek help without feeling judgment. Having conversations about mental health within our community is the first step to doing so. Three groups will lead presentations for you to choose from, focused on helping you relax in three key areas: stress surrounding school, understanding the brain, and strategies for stress relief. 

The afternoon will begin in the best possible way, with a chance to experience guided animal therapy with a petting zoo! These fuzzy and friendly animals will ease any tension you enter with, allowing for a more stress-free and clear-minded experience. There will also be art projects to spark your creativity and foster relaxation. 

At JTI, we confront the stress-heavy days that a typical student is faced with and research strategies that help to ease stress. One of our groups is focused on navigating school stress and will lead an activity that allows you to meaningfully process your busy workload. So, if you are an overwhelmed student (as all of us are), be sure to pop by their seminar! 

Another group will help show you strategies for stress relief with a variety of interactive activities. Our hope is that you find one that works for you and that you could use in your day-to-day life. There will be coloring, slime making, and cookie decorating. Bring your creativity and your appetite!

One final seminar will dive into the brain science behind mental health issues, scientifically educating participants on why these issues may occur. In this interactive activity, participants will work with their hands and sculpt a brain out of Play-Doh, effectively teaching participants the science behind various mental health issues, helping make them seem less scary and more confront-able. 

If all of this isn’t tempting enough, we will conclude the day with “schmoozing time” for ice cream and bonding! We recognize how hard it can be to step away from your work this time of year. We are offering this opportunity to take a pause, de-stress, and go back to your life feeling ready for success.

To join us on May 5, click this link and register!

Ava Plofsky is a junior at Natick High School. She is involved in field hockey and unified track at Natick and enjoys hanging out with her friends and family. She is a member of Temple Israel of Natick and will be going to Israel this summer with BBYO.

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