Amber C. ’22
Spinning: A Career-Oriented Investigation
My Signature project is a career-oriented project about spinning, a form of exercise using stationary exercise bicycles. I researched different aspects of indoor cycling bikes, spinning techniques, and physiology at the project's beginning. I then completed interviews with spinning instructors that allowed me to learn about their career journeys. From my own experiences with spinning in both large and small spinning studios, I compared and contrasted the organization and teaching styles of the instructors, which gave a better overview of the fitness industry. In addition, I created infographics with information and tips for people who are interested in becoming spinning instructors in the future. Finally, during my after-school physical education spinning sessions, I incorporated what I had learned through the project, which gave me experience in teaching and prepared me for a potential career related to spinning.
Abby G. ’22
Peers Helping Peers
Peers Helping Peers: Writing a peer counseling training handbook for my peer counseling group (Peer HANND), as well as participating in/leading the new Mental Health Ambassador program.
During my second year working on my project “Peers Helping Peers,” I was able to make more progress directly affecting the Emma Willard community than I did in my first year in the Signature Program. At the beginning of the ‘21-’22 school year, with the help of a school counselor, I launched and led a student group called the Mental Health Ambassadors. We had lots of fun together throughout the year, and we were able to feed each other's passions for mental health justice and awareness. The MHAs learned about mental health issues at Emma, worked on their own individual projects, and helped to bridge the gap between counseling services and the student body. Some of the individual projects consisted of educating students about misused mental health vocabulary on campus, Self Injury Awareness Day informational events, educational posters, and many others. Unfortunately, the counselor that was helping me run the group resigned, which gave me the opportunity to take over. This was an incredible learning experience and provided me with leadership skills and life-long memories. While I was leading the MHAs, I was also writing a handbook for a future Emma Willard peer counseling program. I wrote sections about active listening, leading conversations, resources for mental health on and off campus, confidentiality, and basic information about various mental illnesses. I hope to leave copies of the handbook with some faculty members so that they can be used in the future when the school is ready for a peer counseling team.
Ruby K. ’22 and Sravya L. ’22
The Neuroscience Behind Mental Health Disorders
My partner and I share a love of neuroscience, especially learning the neurobiological components of mental health disorders. Growing up as first-generation immigrants, we saw the need for accessible resources such as medication and therapy for those who struggle with mental health disorders. The root of inaccessibility to treatments, medicine, and doctors who could provide a diagnosis lies in unawareness and lack of education about the available resources. Throughout our research, we found that schools with students from families with higher household incomes are more likely to have a curriculum on mental health disorders and resources such as counseling available. Although this is a problem that needs to be addressed within state-issued educational curricula, my partner and I decided the first step we could take as individuals is to create an accessible and understandable form of media that adolescents can refer to. One partner focused on researching seven mental health disorders while also taking care of the overall website construction. This included composition, aesthetic aspects, and user-friendliness. The other partner focused on seven more specific disorders while also compiling research for the involved neuroscience, neurotransmitters, and the physical role of the brain. Because our website is free and easy to navigate, we hope to bridge the gap between those who have had and those who have not had the opportunity to learn about what goes on in the brain when an individual has a mental health disorder.
Lucia L. ’23
Lifestyle, health, wellness, mental health, stress relief, medicine—If I was meant to describe my project just by nouns I would have definitely used these. Lifestyle Medicine is a medical discipline focused on a healthy lifestyle and the prevention of sickness and chronic diseases, either physical or physical. This idea of prevention is the lifestyle itself.
That was the leading purpose of my project - to develop a media, a way of communication with our community and the outside world, and to introduce this topic as an applicable scheme anyone can adapt. So I did. I established Let’s Talk, a blog exclusively dedicated to ideas or prioritizing our greatest treasure, our health. My sources of information were studies, and professionals from the area of Integrative Medicine, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Nutrition. And that was the first challenge - putting together a website - as I have never had anything like that before. And another one was writing my own content that would be inspiring, motivating, and educational but not too overwhelming. I started with huge expectations given the fact I was a complete novice, which also caused a lot of disappointment, and even more, lessons to learn from. Most of the education opportunities happened outside the platform - in my community. Discussions with friends, faculty, personal education, and growth in the relationship within Mental Health and Wellbeing. I had to change my approach to Signature and reinvent my relationship with the project, which brought me a lot of unexpected fruit - collaborative projects, new ideas, and plans for the future. As a conclusion of all of these efforts and experiences, I have an ongoing, growing project of mine that I am proud of. Even though I don’t consider my Signature project a product, but rather a successful start-up that is on a continuous journey.
Tina M. ’23
Art, Artists, and Mental Health: A Study of Edvard Munch
My signature project focuses on how the artist’s mental health affects the artwork that they produce. Specifically, I focused on the artist Edvard Munch, who was a Norwegian expressionist and symbolist artist best known for painting “the Scream”. For my research paper, I learned extensively about Munch’s life, including his family, art career, relationships with other people, and more. It has been interesting to witness how all different key events and moments in his life contributed to the gradual deterioration of his mental health, such as the death of his mother and sister when he was young, his unstable relationships, interactions with nihilist philosophers, etc, all of which could be traced in the various artistic decisions that he made.
Writing this research paper has made me aware that art does not exist in a vacuum; instead, it is a mirror of both the life of the artist and the broader societal norms that they are a part of. This project has also encouraged me to reflect on my own artistic processes and the extent to which it is impacted by my mental health. Additionally, learning about Munch’s philosophy behind his art provided me with new insights about what art is meant to be for the artist and the viewer.
Hanhee Y. ’22
Impact of COVID-19 on Children
I decided to work on this project as I observed my younger siblings struggling with schoolwork and making friends ever since the beginning of the pandemic. As I tried to help them deal with the struggles, I wanted to learn more about the different consequences of COVID on children and find better ways to support them. The main work of my project was to gather information through interviews. I interviewed several families on campus with children of young ages and talked about their diverse experiences with their children’s academic, emotional, or social struggles. Then I managed to make a brochure to display what I learned from the interviews and to provide what families can do to best assist their children going through similar challenges. Since the pandemic is still an ongoing issue, I hope to continue the work even after graduation and add newly rising struggles and ways to respond to them.