• USC hosts evening program - Promoting Happiness & Success in Middle School

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    Upper St. Clair families are invited to attend the program, “Promoting Happiness & Success in Middle School,” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, in the Boyce Middle School theater. The program is sponsored by the USC Parent Teacher Council Wellness Committee in collaboration with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone PA.

    “We are excited to offer this program to our current and emerging middle school families,” Dr. Amy Pfender, deputy superintendent, said. “It is important for parents to be familiar with the natural challenges that begin in those early middle school years.”

    Ikeya Craig-Swatson, community engagement specialist for NAMI Keystone PA, will serve as the evening’s keynote speaker. Her experience with youth ranges from elementary to college-age and her roles have included student affairs, youth development, teaching/training and mentorship. At NAMI Keystone PA, she leads mental health initiatives for youth and young adults.

    The evening will also include a presentation from Dr. Lauren Madia, Upper St. Clair’s director of pupil services. Dr. Madia will offer an overview of the programs and services available to families that support happiness and success at the middle level and beyond.

    The Wellness Committee has previously hosted events and speakers, many of which have focused at the high school level. The April 24 program focuses on the unique needs of middle school children.

    “There's not one "recipe" for happiness and success that guarantees no discomfort or problems,” Dr. Madia said. “Rather, understanding the range of developmental normalcy and how school and families can engage in strategies that support children through this time buffers the challenges and highlights the positives of middle school!”

    Given the important development stage, middle school is a prime time to focus on happiness and success.

    “When most adults think back to this time in their lives, they often recall difficult moments, unpleasant feelings, and awkward interactions,” Dr. Madia said. “What we know about the needs of middle school students/early adolescents means that we have the opportunity to approach how we nurture and educate them in an informed, intentional way. This is true for both school staff and families, and we can work together to provide a holistic support system.”

    There are several common factors that can impact the happiness and emotional wellbeing of middle school-aged children.

    “While middle schoolers are beginning to be given opportunities to exert independence, their cognitive development in the areas of problem-solving and decision-making is not complete,” Dr. Madia said. “Adolescents are prone to make mistakes in judgment. Nobody likes to make mistakes!”

    In addition, biological and physical changes during the middle school years can also affect children’s happiness.

    “Their emotional development and biological influences like hormonal changes can also impact their relationships and interactions with family members and peers. Arguments and social circle fluctuations are common but upsetting,” Dr. Madia said. “Finally, physical changes in their bodies coupled with the identity development tasks in this stage leave middle school students with feelings of self-consciousness and hyper-awareness of their physical appearance. A new haircut or a new pair of shoes that aren't ‘just right’ seems minor to adults but major to adolescents.”

    It is important for parents and families to know that they are not alone and that support for their middle school children is within reach.

    “Formally, professionals including teachers, school counselors and practitioners, such as pediatricians, are resources for parents,” Dr. Madia said. “Informally, research shows that when young people have just ONE positive adult relationship other than their parents, they have more favorable outcomes. Who are those people in your child's life? They are your village.”

    The Wellness Committee is one of several committees of the USC Parent Teacher Council, which are led and staffed by parent volunteers. Libby Mascaro serves as the chairperson of the Wellness Committee. For more information about the committee, email libby.mascaro@gmail.com or like/follow Upper St. Clair PTC Wellness Committee on Facebook.


Last Modified on April 5, 2024