Since the start of the pandemic, teens around the world have faced a myriad of new challenges that impact their mental health and well-being. They’ve also had a unique opportunity to reflect and grow.
To celebrate Know Your Classmates® Day, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy sat down with Beyond Differences National Teen Board Members Juan, Maliyah, and Matteo to speak about their pandemic experiences. As members of the National Teen Board, they serve as change agents in their schools and communities and role models to middle schoolers to build a culture of belonging at their school. They offered keen insights into how the pandemic and distance learning were impacting them and their classmates. They were deeply honored to support Dr. Murthy in his incredible work to ensure that America’s children feel connected and valued.
The live-streamed event viewed by thousands of students and teachers around the country, included an introduction by Laura Talmus, co-founder and executive director of Beyond Differences. Dr. Murthy shared stories about growing up and feeling socially isolated at times. He recalled individuals who made an effort to make him feel a sense of belonging and how important that was to him as a shy child and teen. His honesty and vulnerability helped each teen present their unique experiences. They shared their challenges as well as some of the positive aspects around family and inner reflection.
- Juan spoke of issues of isolation faced by the Latinx community and the need for mental health support specifically for the youth in his immigrant community. He also talked about the economic divide and how it impacted students in low-income households during the pandemic.
- Matteo felt speaking to Dr. Murthy about his coming out as trans was incredibly validating and important in that their conversation would enable other transgender youth to know their voices and identities are valued and important. He also shared his support for teachers and the incredible work they have done to teach during such challenging times.
- Maliyah hoped that her conversation with Dr. Murthy would allow other young Black people to see that their voices matter and they don’t have to stand on the sidelines waiting for people to speak for them. She also made a point to stay positive by limiting social media and blocking out negative content.
Beyond Differences is so proud of these incredible young activists and we cannot wait to see what’s next for all of them.
Watch the Livestream here:
In case you missed it – the event was mentioned in the news!
Director of National Youth Programs
Beyond Differences’ mission is to inspire students nationwide to end social isolation and create cultures of belonging for everyone. We envision a world where all youth are accepted, valued, and included no matter their differences. Beyond Differences offers FREE SEL curriculum, lesson plans, and supplies to middle school educators all across the nation. Bring our programs to your school today!