NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Typically, for high school students a suspension would stay on their record. One program at Corona Del Mar High School is allowing students to exchange their suspension and rather than lose time in school, they are gaining a connection with their peers.
There is a strength in a group that as individuals, we don’t always have. These teens are smashing vape pens, symbolizing their break from the reliance on nicotine.
It is part of an event at the Newport Beach Civic Center highlighting One On Campus, a program that provides support for students on school campuses.
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Aden Mina is a senior at Corona Del Mar High School - the first high school to have One On its campus. The water polo player faced a school suspension last year after an off-campus incident.
The suspension exchange program allows students who have committed an infraction punishable by suspension to exchange that suspension for attendance of weekly meetings.
“Going to these first couple meetings I was closed-minded. I didn’t believe in therapy or anything of that sort but after a while - after like the third or fourth meeting - I kind of opened up more and more and I saw that kids have real problems going on,” says Mina.
More than 50 students who have graduated exchanged their suspensions. Without One, a suspension on their record may have prevented them from getting into the college they are at now.
While the program often gets kids in the door, what they end up walking away with is much more personal.
Program creator Lynne Pedersen has over 30 years of experience in the mental health field, and sold her house in Sierra Madre to start One’s on campus program almost five years ago. The issues she hears deals with everything from drugs to the loss of family members, and while the issues are complex, the idea is simple, give students a safe space to talk about anything and give them the power to empower each other.
“In this room they get to drop an anchor, consider things differently, or even consider things at all. Because where are they dropping an anchor to even talk about any of these things or consider it or listen to another peer going through something,” says Pedersen.
Mina, who will play water polo next year at Loyola Marymount, has become the program’s ambassador. His story has helped inspire students of all different social groups.
While the basis of the program is to create a group of one, the goal is to help each one of the students in it, realize their own ability to handle the pressures of life.
“Getting caught and going to One was a huge decision-maker for me and it changed who I am. Honestly I met people and I learned from those people, and they changed the way I think,” says Mina.
The power of human connection.