This generation of middle schoolers has grown up surrounded by major society problems including school shootings and opioid addiction issues.
Often, the kids involved with such traumas have mental heath problems and can be labeled as quiet loners with very few friends traumatized by bullying or domestic problems. But they rarely talk about what's bothering them.
A group of Andover adults is working hard to get middle schoolers to open up more and to talk about anything that's bothering them. With financial support from the Andona Society and the Andover Rotary Club, the group is hosting a daylong Saturday workshop at Ironstone Farm on June 9 exclusively for middle schoolers that aims to let these kids know that it's better to talk about troubles than to keep troubles bottled up. It's being called LifeQuest Andover.
The national LifeQuest organization is based in South Dakota and encourages groups to organize events that "promote a community of acceptance and caring," according to their website. Equipping young people with the tools they need to navigate life's ups and downs is a big part of the company's mission statement.
"It's a day of self-discovery, community and learning to manage emotions and everyday stress," said Seth Monk, a Zen Buddhist monk, who is a familiar face in Andover schools as he teaches yoga and relaxation classes to students and teachers.
Monk is among the five adults who will be at the workshop which will include games, yoga, nature walks, vision boards and more mindfulness practices.
"There is definitely a need for this. I see it when I'm in the schools," said Monk, who grew up in Andover.
He left the monastery in 2014 and has taught meditation at various places in Massachusetts since, including at MIT, Andover High School, Andover Recreation Department and South Boston Yoga. He's an energy healer and at the workshop plans to share his teachings about the importance of managing inner-self feelings.
"We'll help the middle schoolers learn about their emotional tools," he said. "We want to connect them to community."
Andover mom Melissa Litton, whose son is in middle school, is helping at the event as she also sees a need for the program.
"They are so stressed out about school or something else," she said. "They need to know that's okay, but they have to learn how to balance things and not keep everything inside. I think this will help."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: LifeQuest Andover
WHO: For any middle schooler, grades 6 to 8
WHEN: Saturday, June 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Ironstone Farm, Lowell Street, Andover
COST: $85 includes snacks, lunch