DHS Students Present to Darien Parents and Faculty

Four students continued the Darien Youth Community Conversation with additional presentations of takeaways made to parents and faculty


Darien Thriving Youth Task Force

Four DHS students have been sharing takeaways from the Darien Youth Community Conversation with Darien parents and faculty.

Charlotte Ward, Editor-In-Chief

The Darien Thriving Youth Task Force recently hosted the Darien Youth Community Conversation at the Darien Library. The Darien Thriving Youth Task Force is a volunteer coalition comprised of local organizations that promotes positive mental health for town youth with the ultimate goal of reducing teen substance use.

The Conversation was the first of its kind and was designed to amplify student voices and perspectives about life as a teenager in Darien. The conversation served as a forum for teens to identify challenges they face today, and they worked with adult leaders to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the issues they raised. The conversation included roughly 30 high school students in grades 10-12 from different organizations across town, representing a diverse cross-section of Darien teens who were nominated by their respective organizations. The goal of the Conversation was to focus on what Darien teens wish adults in our community knew about being a teenager in Darien.

A smaller group of teens then worked to narrow down the critical themes addressed in the larger Conversation. From there, an even smaller group volunteered to present the findings from the Conversation. In January, they first presented the key takeaways at the Thriving Youth Task Force meeting held on Zoom on midterms makeup day. Representing the Youth Community Conversation were Darien High School seniors Julia Erdlen, Sophie Curtis, and myself, along with junior Apara Chandavarkar. They presented to DHS administrators, parents, organization leaders, and Thriving Youth Task Force members, and each focused on one of the four takeaways (the stress of expectations, a need for trust, an emphasis on creating more fun, and recognizing that times have changed) discussed in November. 

On March 7th, the same four students were invited to share the group’s takeaways again, this time with a larger audience of parents at a special event hosted at the Darien Library. The event was largely attended, with over 225 parents who were packed into the library’s Community Room actively listening to the presentation.

Teen commentary was followed by a panel discussion led by experts Ms. Rebecca Campbell, LCSW and Director of Therapy Services for Sasco River Center; psychologist Dr. Tara S. Levinson, who has a private practice in Westport; and Ms. Tracy Masella, LCSW, who works in association with Silver Hill Hospital, is the Clinical Director of The Krasner Adolescent Institute, and has a private practice in Wilton. The panelists provided helpful insight and tips about the group’s takeaways and how parents can better support their teens.

The Thriving Youth Task Force welcomed Darien parents to hear teen and panelist takeaways and insights. (Darien Thriving Youth Task Force)

Parents also found the event to be a worthwhile use of their time. “The Thriving Youth Task Force teen presentation was impressive, informative and insightful,” Kim Adams, mother of DHS sophomore Chloe Adams, said. “As a parent, hearing from the teens themselves about the daily pressures of a high schooler was an eye-opening experience, and the panel of experts provided useful advice on how to address the issues discussed. I hope this is only the beginning of this very important conversation within our community.”

“I could tell that we made an impact when parents immediately came up to us after the event and expressed what they learned and continued to ask us questions,” Erdlen said. “When I looked into the audience, I saw engaged and eager parents that want to better the lives of Darien teens.”

To watch the recording of the event, click here.

Following the Darien Library event, the Youth Community Conversation representatives joined DHS faculty and staff in the DHS cafeteria for a portion of their faculty meeting on March 8th. During the meeting, they presented their takeaways another time and then opened the floor to staff members for questions. This presentation, spearheaded by Principal Ms. Ellen Dunn, focused on what all adults can do to support Darien teens.

The positive reactions we witnessed  confirmed that this is just the beginning of what we hope is a lot of positive growth in the community.

— Senior Sophie Curtis

“The common message was that [adults] were proud of us, and I took that to mean that they were proud of all the teens in Darien for dealing with the issues we face,” Chandavarkar said. “Hearing that comment again and again brought home the point that we are making change.”

Momentum for this topic is building. “The positive reactions we witnessed confirmed that this is just the beginning of what we hope is a lot of positive growth in the community,” Curtis said. 

The Thriving Youth Task Force plans to continue working closely with Darien youth, experts, and other adults to ensure that teen voices are heard throughout the entire Darien community to create positive change surrounding the pressures today’s teens face.