Multiple photos of activities held during Friday Fun Day.

Penn Manor HS ‘Friday Fun Day’ earns national recognition

Penn Manor High School recently received national recognition for a program designed to encourage students to bond with their peers and open up about their mental health challenges.

“Friday Fun Day: Flexin’ to De-Stress and Check In on Our Mental Health” was named one of three finalists in a nationwide competition sponsored by Invent2Prevent Edventure Partners. High schools and colleges were challenged to implement programs to bring students closer together, with the ultimate goal of preventing violence.

Penn Manor received a $1,000 grant to implement its program on April 12 during Flex period. All grades, 9-12, took part in activities, which included team-building exercises, door decorating, board games and hallway handball, creating friendship bracelets, and other activities.

Team-building games included Fast Friends, in which students share personal information about themselves to build closeness, and Human Knot, in which students link hands with two other people. Students also got to interact with KPets therapy dogs on hand for the event.

At the start of these activities, students watched a video explaining 988, a number they can text for help if they are experiencing mental health difficulties. At the close of Flex period, students completed surveys on their experience.

About 85 percent said the event was a positive experience, and about 20 percent said they felt less stressed out after Friday Fun Day. Students also reported they felt more comfortable about seeking help from an adult at Penn Manor for their personal struggles.

Friday Fun Day was organized and implemented by the high school Aevidum Club, led by adviser Maria Vita, a psychology teacher. Aevidum’s mission is to erase the stigma of depression and other mental health issues facing teens.

“I think some people really enjoyed their time during Friday Fun Day and bonded with other students,” said Emily Jones, a sophomore Aevidum member.

“A lot of people who don’t normally socialize, socialized” during the event, said Kaylee Brackbill, another sophomore Aevidum member.

As a finalist, Penn Manor earned an all-expenses-paid trip for five students and two adults to Washington, D.C., from June 24-27 to do a presentation on Friday Fun Day before a panel of judges.

The winning school will receive $5,000 to support its program; second place will earn $2,000, and third place gets $1,000.

“This was the first time club members participated in Invent2Prevent, so to be among the finalists reinforces that the group’s work was both meaningful and effective,” said Ms. Vita. “We are thankful to all students and teachers who helped make the project a success.”

Congratulations on this award!