High school holds “Esteem” program for students

CANTON, Conn. (WTNH)– Sometimes students talking to other children about bullying can have more of an impact than adults talking about it. That might be part of the reason behind the success of a program out of Canton High School called ‘Esteem’.

Emily Scanlan, Emily Coleman and about 30 other members of the Canton High School ‘Esteem’ program spent the day making an impression on the 5th graders at the Gaffney Elementary School in New Britain.

“We’re going to tell them about drugs, alcohol, family issues and try to help them decide how to walk through those problems,” said Scanlan.

Not with lectures but with dances and skits, the type of activities younger kids can easily relate to on subjects like ‘stealing’.

The Esteem program was created at Canton High in 1988 since then touching so many lives.

“All these years… thousands,” said Joan Reiskin, Esteem program co-founder.

Joan Reisken and Heidi Zacchera, both former Canton high teachers, co-founded Esteem way back when.

They say the day-long sessions often result in lasting friendships.
esteem program 2

“A lot of times the students in the 5th graders will create such a bond with our students that they will contact them and talk about other issues,” said Zacchera.

Gaffney’s principal says the concept of building self esteem at an early age is a ‘perfect fit’ with her school’s mission.

“They’re taking dance and music and theatrical arts and they’re combining that in a full day program, involving the kids in a hands on way making personal connections,” said Lisa Eells, Gaffney school principal.

That could change how kids feel about themselves and treat their classmates.

“I feel like we’re giving them the tools to make a difference in themselves to make a difference in their peers,” said Emily Coleman, Esteem instructor.

And the Esteem program is an all day workshop.

At night the parents are brought in so they can find out more about what their children learned about self esteem and other issues earlier in the day.

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