Students Attend First Virtual Assembly of the Year


Dr. Issiah Pickens presents virtually and teaches students to find their power in uncertain times.

Audrey Whitfield, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, December 8, Dr. Isaiah Pickens presented “Finding Your Power In Uncertain Times” to all Monroe-Woodbury High School students.
The presentation was streamed through the M-W YouTube channel, and the link was shared with teachers. The teachers then presented their screens on Google Classroom during period 3.
The purpose of this presentation was to help students better understand stress and learn ways to deal with it in a healthy manner. The question students were asked to think about during the 45-minute presentation was “Who is the hero of your story?”
Matthew Graves, a sophomore at Monroe-Woodbury said, “His presentation made me really think about lots of different things and made me make realizations I never have before.”
A freshman, Maya Telesmanic said that she liked how Dr. Pickens incorporated interactive activities into his presentation, such as the chatbox. Telesmanic described the assembly as inspiring, impactful, motivating, and uplifting.
During the presentation, students were told to look beyond a bad situation, and ask themselves, “Can I rise above, maybe fly a little higher?”
“Part of what makes us stressed out is we feel like we have no control,” said Pickens. Students were told to write down what they have control over, and what they don’t, then decide the best way to fix the problem.
Azure Bolling, a junior said he learned that if he thinks in the sense of the bigger picture, he can understand why things are happening and not get too emotional.
During the summer Ms. Ricker, the director of pupil personnel services, Ms. Tauber, a board of education member and PTSA President co-chaired the School Re-Opening Social-Emotional Task Force. They listened to concerns from students, staff, parents, and community members related to trauma, cultural responsiveness, connectedness, equity, and student/teacher connection that all rose to the forefront.

I believe that if an assembly is going to help students and improve their lives in any way, then it is worth all the time in the world.

— Matthew Graves

“We were looking for a diverse group of presenters that were relatable, authentic, and experts in the areas of concern shared with us,” said Ricker.
Ms. Ricker and Ms. Tauber interviewed numerous mental health presenters, clinicians, and agencies until they received a strong recommendation about iOpening Enterprises from the professional development staff at Rockland BOCES.
Ricker and Mrs. Tauber researched iOpening Enterprises, reviewed their work and interviewed them, before deciding they were a good pick for our school.
“I would like more virtual assemblies,” said Graves. “I feel like if we found the right one that would highly resonate with students, it could help so many of them out during this harsh time of Covid-19.”
Sarah Hiller, a sophomore disagreed. She said that she didn’t enjoy the assembly because she felt like there was no overall theme and it was hard to follow.
Ricker and the Equity Task Force wanted students to feel supported by the adults in their world and let them know that it is OK to acknowledge that we are not OK right now. They also wanted to share some healthy coping strategies (i.e., RAVE approach) with students.
The RAVE approach was described by Pickens as “a hero’s secret weapon”. It stands for Reframe, Affirm, Validate, and Empower.
Students should reframe their bad situation, by seeing how it can be helpful to them. Then they should realize how it affects different parts of them, and build that part up. Then they should validate their feelings and not be too hard on themselves. Lastly, they should find power in the situation to change it.
Dr. Pickens met with small groups of students and listened to their concerns related to equity, as well as presented a webinar for Staff Self-care, and he has given two presentations for parents and community members.
“With Dr. Picken’s clinical psychologist background, enthusiasm, and ability to relate on all levels, we thought that he would be well received by the students and that they would be receptive to his suggestions for managing stress and developing coping strategies,” said Ricker.
Some students were concerned with taking extra time out of the already shortened school day for this assembly, but others felt like it was important.
A sophomore, Jeter Sison said that he and his friends are already so behind in their classes that he feels like the presentation was not worth taking 45 minutes out of the already shortened school day.
Telesmanic said that although it took time out of the school day, she felt like it was necessary to make students feel more motivated.
“We would like to send out a survey to get student feedback and to hear what other topics of interest students would like presented,” said Ricker.
Ricker hopes that next year, Pickens will be able to visit our school district and present live to our students.