New Freedoms Program Opens Eyes for Seniors

On November 3rd, the seniors of Belmont Hill headed over to NCDS for the day to participate in a workshop about mental and relationship wellbeing. Led by the peer leaders from both schools, New Freedom’s day covered everything that concerned the transition to college life from general nutrition to more serious topics such as date rape and abusive relationships. 

To start the day off, Jay Civetti, a Belmont Hill alum from the class of ’97, gave an enthralling speech about motivation and a positive mentality. Speaking from his experience as the current head coach for Tufts football, he walked students through what he does to motivate his team when things get rough. Having taken an utterly defeated team to an impressive final 7-2 record, many students were listening carefully to his hour-long speech.

Following Civetti came Tara Greeley from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Her speech both impressed and informed, as she not only helped students identify the signs of depression but also drew from popular activists such as Billie Ellish and Tyler Posy and their “Seize the Awkward” campaign for support. By helping students learn to talk to potentially suicidal friends, Greeley helped prepare them for yet another challenge they might face in college next year.

After Greeley’s speech, Dr. Malcom Astley took the stage and spoke to students about his firsthand experience with relationship abuse. His daughter, Lauren Astley, had been murdered by her boyfriend in 2011, and, ever since, he has devoted much of his time to violence prevention and healthy relationship workshops. His work in these fields has been honored by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Second Step, the Melrose Alliance Against Violence, and the Jean Geiger Crisis Center.

Afterward, the head Peer Leaders displayed an educational video titled “Escalation,” in which an abusive college relationship ends in murder. While it may have seemed far fetched, it was accurately based on a multitude of real-life examples, helping many students realize that these things can actually happen. After the 40 minute movie, the seniors were split into mixed groups and held discussions about the video and its message. These workshops helped students recognize the early signs of an abusive relationship and how to handle an abusive partner. 

Finally, after a short lunch break, school president Jack Mchugh ’20 and NCDS student Kat Kane ’20 presented a skit about the dangers of date rape and lack of communication between partners. While this was incredibly uncomfortable for just about everyone, its message about misread signals between partners and the inability of a victim to say “no” were powerful enough to get the message across. 

Overall, the day was a success. The event was well organized, and although the topic material was sensitive, it was handled very well by everyone that presented. By learning how to identify the signs of abuse to preventing it outright, it’s safe to say that ever senior left NCDS that day more prepared for their transition to college


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