Students and parents discussed drug use, stress, mental health, and sex.
On January 31, Malvern hosted a SpeakUp! event to give students and parents an opportunity to talk about pressing issues for youth today.
What was different this year for the event was a new format that included a shorter introduction, to get students into breakout sessions sooner.
“The feedback we were receiving was that the breakouts are what make SpeakUp! unique,” SpeakUp! moderator and theology teacher Mrs. Kenworthey said. “It’s the breakouts that change and impact people, and what they remember the most.”
According to the SpeakUp! website, the events allow for “a safe, non-threatening environment for individuals to share candidly about relevant issues.”
Senior Tom Maguire said that he felt no fear or pressure in participating in his breakout session.
“I always hear great things about it,” he said. “So I was really excited to go.”
Maguire wanted to go into a breakout session dealing with drug and alcohol use, but they were filled so he attended a breakout session dealing with sex.
“It was definitely awkward at first,” he said. “I didn’t know most of the people in the room, and obviously with sex it’s going to be a bit awkward. I had a few friends in the group, and once we got discussions going people loosened up and felt a lot more comfortable with each other.”
In years past when Malvern hosted the events on a school night, there would be an approximately 45 minute long introduction, complete with a speaker. This year the introduction was shorted to about half an hour, Kenworthey said.
Although Mrs. Kenworthey is the moderator for organizing the event, students from Malvern, Villa, Notre Dame, and Devon Prep compose a steering committee to organize the event.
“We worked on the night for months,” said senior Brandon Chiazza. “Just figuring out the planning, how to advertise it, and the topics we were going to discuss.”
Chiazza said the process to select students for the steering committee began last year.
“We had to write an essay and attend two events before,” he said.
According to Kenworthey, Malvern has not always hosted SpeakUp! events. Malvern would go to events hosted by Merion Mercy Academy.
“At one point it was Merion, St. Joe’s [Prep], Notre Dame, and us, all at Merion,” she said. “At that point, I figured why not break off and host one here with Malvern, Villa, and Notre Dame.”
Kenworthey said Devon Prep was not involved at Malvern’s event at first, but joined soon after.
The event was also originally hosted on a Saturday with two breakout sessions instead of the one this month.
“It seemed to us that a lot of our communities had sports or tournaments on the weekends,” Kenworthey said. “They’re just not free on a Saturday during the day. If you’re moving from a weekend to a weeknight, you have less time so we did away with the second breakout session.”
Kenworthey also said that time was not the only factor in reducing the amount of breakout sessions.
“Some people wanted more time to talk, and to talk on two topics,” she said. “But some people felt that after one session, you’re talked out for the day or the night.”
One change Kenworthey would like to see in the future for the SpeakUp! introduction is having a student take the role that paid speakers had in the past.
“We were having really good speakers coming in,” she said. “But the good speakers are really expensive, and if you get a bargain speaker, you get what you pay for and the speakers aren’t as good.”
Kenworthey said that a student speaker can break the routine of the introduction.
“A lot of the introduction is scripted,” she said. “The students make their own prayer, but a lot of it is scripted. For the actual intro talk, why not have that be delivered by one of the students?”