Tag Archives: Staples High School Teen Awareness Group

You Are Not Alone: Students Raise Awareness Of Mental Health

For years, discussion of mental health has been taboo. People have suffered in silence, not wanting to be judged by family, friends or colleagues.

Finally, mental health has become a mainstream topic. One of the most important places to talk about it is school.

To prepare for Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the Staples High School Climate Committee and Teen Awareness Group (TAG) are launching a community-wide campaign. The goal is to raise awareness, and let people know they are not alone.

TAG — a youth-led non-profit and school club — is working on a documentary for their annual “Get Real Day” at Staples in May. The goal is to bring local stories of mental illness and substance abuse to students to encourage conversation, reduce stigma, and provide support and resources to students.

They need our help. TAG is looking for Westporters, Staples alumni, current students or teachers who are willing to share their stories through both text and video. Organizers say: “We want people to know this is a ‘we’ problem, not a ‘me’ problem.”

If you’d like to share your story, email Kelly Konstanty at kellyk12@me.com by April 15. Put “Mental Health Awareness Month” in the Subject line.

TAG — and the entire community — thank you.

Pics Of The Day #952

Over 100 Staples High School students spent 3 hours last night dodging the police.

It was hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the cops.

These dodgeball players are actually Players: Staples Players. Two days after closing “Mamma Mia,” they (and a graduated ringer) headed to the fieldhouse for the time of their lives.

The event was the annual “Dodge a Cop” dodgeball tournament. Organized by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group and the Westport Youth Commission, in collaboration with Westport’s Police Department — and held in the dodgeball-friendly fieldhouse — it raises scholarship funds for Chris Lemone’s children. The founder of TAG died 4 years ago, age 49.

Some teams were coed. This one was loaded with Staples athletes.

Nearly 2 dozen teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

When Dana Seymour is not a referee, she is a Staples security guard.

Despite an evening of hurling balls at each other, no arrests were reported.

Like athletes everywhere, there was some fidgeting during the national anthem …

… and then the games began. (Photos/Dan Woog)

“Grim Reaper Day” Stalks Staples

It happens each spring, in high schools around the country. Juniors get their driver’s licenses. Proms offer temptations. And drunk driving accidents tear apart countless lives.

Every spring for nearly 2 decades, Staples High School’s Teen Awareness Group has organized a Grim Reaper Day.

Using an array of educational tools — wrecked cars in the parking lot, posters on the walls, “Grim Reapers” or police officers pulling students out of class — TAG has done its job.

Among the most effective parts of the day are personal stories. This year’s speaker held students spellbound as he described driving the car that killed his friend. In every way imaginable, his life has never been the same.

TAG also produces videos. This year’s — shown here below — hit close to home.

Former Staples basketball player Mike Krysiuk recalled his trip to Vista, New York for beer after a game.

The driver of the Triumph hit a backhoe at 100 miles an hour. Mike spent 7 weeks in a coma, then had to learn to walk and talk all over again.

Drinking and driving is a complex social issue. Teenagers can be impulsive creatures.

But — thanks to hard-working TAG members, and an administration that supports them — Staples does whatever it can to make sure that no student joins the grim statistics that filled the halls today.

Zoe Brown: “Chris Lemone Will Always Be A Part Of Me”

Zoe Brown graduated from Staples High School in June. Now a freshman at the University of Southern California, she’s also the author of an insightful blog, “IMO.” 

Yesterday she shared her emotions on the death of Staples’ outreach counselor, Chris Lemone. She gave permission to share her beautiful piece with “06880.”


“You’re it. Your life. Your decision.” That’s the Teen Awareness Group (TAG)’s motto.

Unfortunately though, sometimes life throws something at you that you can’t control, something that’s not your decision at all. I learned this the hard way today.

I didn’t think anything at first of the texts and calls I was getting this morning at 5 from members of Staples High School’s TAG, of which I was co-president last year and Chris was advisor of for many years. But when my little sister called me at 6 a.m. (my time), I knew it must be important.

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I really still can’t. I screamed “NO” over and over again. My whole body shook and tears spilled out uncontrollably. I couldn’t catch my breath for what felt like, and honestly may have been, an hour.

Chris Lemone was (and will remain) one of my favorite people ever. When I wrote him a thank-you note at the end of the year, I told him that I’d like to stay in touch forever, to which he said “absolutely.” I told him I could guarantee that he was someone who would be at my wedding, that we would still be close friends in 10 or so years. I even had a 30-minute conversation with him over the phone a couple of weeks ago when I was having trouble settling in to college. He made me feel a million times better, and was so happy that I called.

Chris Lemone

Chris Lemone

It’s all so ironic. Chris was one of the best guys I knew and one of the last people to deserve anything negative in his life, let alone this.

He spent all of his time working to help people and make the community a better place. He must have changed and bettered the lives of more people than I even know in total.

There’s no other way to say it besides that it’s not fair. To say it as Chris would have said it, “It’s just really f*cking unfair.”

On an even more personal note, Chris saw more in me than I ever saw in myself.  I was never able to truly express to him with words how grateful I was for his faith in me. So I tried to use my actions. He made me want to be so great that I really did live up to his vision of me.

At the end of last year he wrote me the nicest letter I’ve ever received, praising my leadership and passion. I hope he understood that so much of what I did was in hopes that it would make him proud, and that he would speak highly of me as he did of other past TAG members.

I now hang that letter next to my bed to remind myself every day to be the person that Chris saw me as.

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

What makes this even harder is that usually, Chris is the person I would call if I was ever feeling as I do now: weak, helpless and sadder than I thought possible.

I’m usually good at giving advice but now I’m completely lost. Nothing I say can make it better or make it hurt any less, no matter how hard I try.

So I’m going to try to think like Chris would. He would throw up his hands, raise his eyebrows, lean back in his desk chair in the TAG office by the cafeteria and say with a little half-chuckle: “F*ck. Life just sucks sometimes, man. You gotta try your best to make the most of it while you’re alive.”

I don’t know if he’d say it exactly like that. But he would definitely figure out a way to throw a curse word in there. He would be blunt and honest but also positive at the same time, as always.

There’s really not much else to say. I could write about how I cherish so much the times I would skip class to sit in Chris’ office, and give and receive advice. I could talk about how overly excited we both got when one of us would see a new Broadway show, or how we spent way too long talking about plays in general. Or I could mention the secrets we had that no one would ever understand and how happy I was whenever I was around him, even when he played his crazy loud rock music during lunch meetings.

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real; everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real. Everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

But I don’t need to spend too long talking about any of that because I know that I will always have those memories, even if I don’t have Chris anymore.

We know he loved us and he knows we loved him. We can and will remember the good times forever, and he will live on through our memories. And in everything I do and whoever I become throughout the rest of my life, there will always be a little part of Chris in there.

It’s pretty fitting that he shared this video on Facebook last month. Without us even asking, he left us with some of the best advice out there:

A good lesson shared by an even better man.

I’ll miss you forever, Chris, and I will continue to live every day trying to make you proud of me.

(P.S. I only included curse words because I know Chris is laughing about that from wherever he is now).

Txtng Klls (Cntd)

Last week, “06880” reported on an important effort by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group to educate peers on the problem idiocy of texting while driving.

A survey was done as part of the project.  The results are in. 

Results are mixed.  There’s good news (awareness of the issue) and bad (the issue is real).

Among the 101 high school drivers surveyed:

  • 42 have texted while driving; 56 have not
  • 7 have lost control of their car while texting; 10 came close to crashing
  • 32 say it’s easy to text and drive; 52 say it’s not
  • 46 talk with their parents about texting and driving; 43 don’t
  • 52 talk with their friends about it; 43 don’t.

Among the 171 passengers surveyed:

  • 130 have been in a car when the driver texted; 16 have not
  • 14 were comfortable when the driver texted; 138 were not (3 said “it depends on who”)
  • 117 have said something to driver about his or her behavior; 42 have not
  • 47 have been in a car that came close to crashing while the driver texted; 118 have not
  • 95 talk with their parents about texting while driving; 65 do not
  • 85 talk with their friends about the topic; 75 do not.

Some further insights into Staples’ student drivers:

The cars most of them drive are Hondas (16) and Toyotas (12).  Those are followed by Jeep (7), Volvo (6), and BMW and Lexus (5 each).  Three drive Mercedeses.

The 2 most popular phones are BlackBerries (30) and iPhones (21).

Feel free to pass along this important distracted-driving survey.  By email, please. 

Not text.

(The TAG TXT U L8TR project is sponsored by Yale-New Haven Hospital and Allstate.)

TAG — You’re It

It seems like an odd request.  But the idea behind it is rock solid.

TAG — Staples’ Teen Awareness Group — is seeking students and adults with personal drunk driving stories.  They’ll be interviewed for a drunk driving documentary, to be shown to the entire student body at TAG’s annual Grim Reaper Day.

If this year’s video is anything like TAG’s 1st 3, it will be 1 of the most powerful days of school Staples students will ever have.

If you — or someone you know — has been impacted by a drunk driving incident, contact TAG advisors Chris Lemone (203-341-1285; mrcounselorguy@yahoo.com) or Elaine Daignault (203-341-1165; elained@westportct.gov).

As the group’s tagline says:  “TAG.  You’re it.  Your life.  Your decision.”

TAG works tirelessly to stop drunk driving.

DIRT In Westport

John Morello is DIRT

John Morello is DIRT

Two years ago “DIRT” — a 1-man show about drug and alcohol abuse — took Staples by storm.

Actor John Morello’s performance — honest, powerful, heart-rending, all that stuff that is so important for teenagers to hear, and so difficult to convey — struck a compelling chord.  Students talked about it for days.  For some, it even sank in.

DIRT returns to Westport this Monday (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).  This time the sponsor — Staples’ Teen Awareness Group — invites all Westport students and parents to attend.

Westporters face many tough choices, every day.  This is an easy one:  Go!