The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 8, 2024

Youth Summit teaches students about physical, emotional and social health

A punch in the eye. A palm in the face. A kick in the groin. That’s how self-defense expert and karate black-belt Carol Middleton instructed students to counter any potential physical assaults.

Self-defense expert Carol Middleton performs a roleplay with her assistant. She emphasized that listening to your instincts can save your life. Photo by Abigail Cutler.

Middleton’s presentation on safety and self-defense was the centerpiece of a Whitman Community Youth Summit, an event designed to facilitate discussions between students and professionals in fields relating to students’ physical, emotional and social health. The summit took place April 4 and 5 for two hours each morning.

In addition to attending Middleton’s presentation in the auditorium April 4, all students participated in three smaller group discussions over the course of the summit. Professionals from Bethesda and the surrounding community shared experiences and gave advice on topics including stress, personal relationships, family issues, eating disorders and ethics.

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Middleton, who shared a personal anecdote about a knife-wielding attacker, emphasized not only what to do if violently attacked, but also how to avoid a confrontation in the first place by, for example, acting assertively but not aggressively and trusting your gut feelings about possible danger.

“Reviewing the psychological methods used to prevent a fight, like just walking away if you can, was the most important part of the presentation,” senior Danny McClanahan said. “Bethesda is a place we all think is safe. She brought attention to the fact that we’re not going to be living in Bethesda our entire lives.”

Depression, anxiety and suicide comprised one popular classroom discussion topic. One of 40 professionals speaking on the topic was teen psychologist Bruce Pomerantz, who discussed triggers, symptoms and coping strategies for depression and anxiety.

“Teenage years are the hardest time of life,” he said. “There’s still a lot of life left, and if we can course-correct this early, you really are going to be O.K.”

Many other speakers discussed ways students can relieve stress. Psychologist Erin Berman, who specializes in anxiety disorders, had students focus all their senses on the act of unwrapping, smelling and tasting a piece of chocolate as an example of how to shut out stresses of the past and future and focus on the moment, sophomore Elena Schwam said.

Psychologist David Wolfe, who specializes in the effects of stress on physical pain, highlighted the importance of sleep and exercise, junior Andrei Dai said.

Chemistry teacher Sean Reid, who shared anecdotes during Wolfe’s discussion about sleep in his classroom, thought the entire program was successful.

“There was a good mix of the intimate setting of the classroom and the larger audience of the auditorium,” he said. “They hit a good blend of being informative and entertaining.”

The school hosted similar youth summits biennially from 1998 until 2006, when they were suspended because of the extensive preparation they required. At principal Alan Goodwin’s request, the Stressbusters Committee reinstituted the event this year, working with a student Youth Summit Committee. Freshman Dakota Oliphant-Linden, a member of the student committee, hopes the summit will occur at least once every four years.

“A lot of people here are dealing with this stuff, but they don’t want to say it or don’t realize it yet,” she said. “It was really good for everyone to hear from professionals on how to deal with these issues.”

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  • A

    AnonApr 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Dont want to be that guy, but this really wasn’t helpful, like at all.

  • D

    DudepantsApr 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm


  • S

    Scott MescudiApr 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    that bish was fake ya heard