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Catholic Charities Education Features

Notre Dame Academy brings positive vibes to student concerns


Notre Dame Academy’s Our Lady Media video club has partnered with Catholic Charities to produce short wellness videos for the students. Allison Stanton, the Catholic Charities in-school social worker at the South Buffalo elementary, answers questions posed by the students on bullying, time management, and parental relationships.

Allison Stanton, in-school social worker at Notre Dame Academy, warms up in front of the camera before recording an episode of “Positive Vibes w/Miss Allison” with Our Lady Media. (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Academy)

“Positive Vibes w/Miss Allison” offers professional responses to real-life questions from the students that deal with social emotional skills. These are skills that help people deal with feelings, set goals, work in teams, and build self-esteem. Topics include “How Do I Ask For Help,” “How Can I Stay Positive,” and “How Can I Stop Procrastinating.”

“I had an idea to produce short wellness videos using topics provided by our students,” explained Paula DeAngelis, advancement/marketing director. “Allison graciously offered to help. I have a media club that meets on Wednesdays (Our Lady Media) and these sixth grade students acted as camera operators, audio, lighting, set design, floor director, talent, and even helped create the opening for the segments.” 

“We created a survey questionnaire where we outreach to our fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes. We had our students give any suggestions. The prompt was ‘If you could ask Miss Allison any questions about mental health or about life, what would you ask?’ I want to say we got about 170 responses of different, insightful questions. Everything from how do you navigate time management to how do you navigate bullying, even how do you set boundaries with friends and adults in your life. How do you learn from teachers who teach differently from how you learn? Amazing questions from our kids,” Stanton explained.

Stanton and Lisa Oviatt, program supervisor for Catholic Charities’ in school social work program, sat down and answered those questions on paper. Then Stanton went to the school studio with a script in hand and the kids did the rest.

“The kids took complete control from micing me up to counting me down,” Stanton said. “It was such a great experience to see them working with the equipment, but also to hear their feedback from what I was saying. They’re like, ‘Yeah, I find myself procrastinating.’ Watching those skills connect with those kids in the moment.”

The most common concerns are rooted in interacting with their peers and parents. Pre-teens don’t always know how to communicate with the adults in their lives.

“Middle school is a time for them to find their independence while parents are still trying to help guide them through life,” Stanton said. “A lot of the questions were pointing towards how do I find myself while taking what my parents can give me, and how do I communicate with those adults in my life that I need help or I need them to listen to me.”

Academic questions also come up, which can help the teachers see where the kids are struggling.

“Sometimes we forget we have to teach kids how to study and how to prioritize projects and essays and all of that stuff,” Stanton said.

Catholic Charities has 16 mental health counselors or social workers that work with Catholic schools throughout Western New York, many of which are split between two schools. Stanton spends every day at Notre Dame’s two South Buffalo campuses working to implement social emotional learning into the school.

“We work with kids individually. We work with them in small groups. We also go into the classrooms and do presentations on those social emotional skills,” she said, explaining that different kids need different avenues to hear the same information. “That’s why some kids benefit from that one-on-one interaction versus a group interaction. We’re always looking for new ways to communicate with our kids and help them learn these skills, because they’re skills on how to be human.”

The plan is to continue the video series next, continuing to answer those questions.

“I think it’s important for everyone to know that social emotional learning is such an important thing for our kids and adults and humans everywhere. They’re skills that you need in order to be successful, and I’m excited that more of our schools are paying attention to that and trying to integrate it into the curriculum and as part of the school day,” Stanton said.