Aevidum Brings Mixed Responses
by Rebecca Chernick on Friday, December 7th, 2012Joe Vulopas, director of Aevidum, addressed the Upper School at Wednesday 2nd period assembly on November 28, 2012 as this year’s Samuel S. Talbot II ’65 Memorial Fund Speaker for affective behavioral issues. Mr. Vulopas discussed how his organization raises awareness about depression and suicide.
“Aevidum,” a made up word meaning “I’ve got your back,” is an education initiative that empowers youth “by connecting them with motivated teachers and world-renowned experts.” Aevidum strives to use the talent and creativity of students in order to spread their message.
After a suicide at the Pennsylvania high school where Mr. Vulopas teaches English, some students approached Mr. Vulopas, and together they started a school club to raise awareness about suicide and depression. The original name of the club, “A Helping Hand (AHH),” seemed “too boring”; thus, Aevidum was born. The club’s goal was to inform students that “depression is an illness, here are the warning signs, and here is where you can go for help.” Mr. Vulopas noted during the assembly that his club won SADD’s (Students Against Destructive Decisions) National Activity of the Year award in 2009– not because they were spreading new information but rather because Aevidum was talking about issues rarely discussed in schools.
During the assembly, Mr. Vulopas emphasized creativity, primarily through audience involvement with Legos, and the importance of expanding one’s ideas throughout the community and the world. By wearing a banana costume, Natalie Jones (I), an ISS member, helped Mr. Vulopas demonstrate that depression does not always stick out. Mr. Vulopas showed a Public Service Announcement made by a student to illustrate this message. The assembly ended with a musical presentation by two Aevidum students.
The Milton community had mixed reactions to the assembly. Students and teachers alike thought that Mr. Vulopas failed to explicitly state the warning signs of depression. Victoria Ruvkun (III) said, “The presentation was really interesting, but I wished he had talked more about the warning signs.”
Mr. Kernohan said, “While I liked what he had to say, that we should talk more about suicide and prevention, I wish he had told us the warning signs. He said he had three ideas, depression is an illness, here are the warning signs, and here is where to go for help. He did the 1st and 3rd, but not really the 2nd. But I do feel Milton does a good job on this front with ISS, the counselors, teachers, advisors, etc. At least I hope we do.”
An ISS member shared similar concerns, stating, “I thought that the speaker was very engaging and had a really good message, [but] I wished he had listed or presented the actual warning signs of depression so that Milton students could have something to go by, because most of the feedback I’ve been getting is that they weren’t given the warning signs, even though he mentioned them in his presentation. Otherwise, I thought it was a great assembly because depression is an illness that intimately affects the Milton community without most students knowing.”
Another point of conflict was his presentation style. Howey Qiu (II) believed, “[Mr. Vulopas] played to the fact that [depression/suicide] is a more modern issue, but something about the presentation didn’t seem natural.” A sophomore girl said, “I thought it was a little cheesy. It was hard to relate to because it didn’t really give a personal story.” Alistair Bastian (II) mentioned, “The presentation was all over the place. I did enjoy the Lego activity though.
Rosamond Carr (II) stated, “I thought he was a good speaker. I don’t think people should have been joking around.” Her opinion accentuates mixed feedback on last Wednesday’s speaker.
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