Category Archives: Student Life

Alumna Shares Story of Hope after Brain Injury

Lindsey Bannish ’11

Lindsey Bannish ’11 returned to campus January 3 to describe to students an “invisible disability” she carries with her always: a traumatic brain injury caused by repeated concussions. Bannish, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and a Rehabilitation Counselor Master’s student at Springfield College, advocates for awareness about head injuries.

She shared her story with students, outlining the challenges she faced after an injury on the ski slopes that caused one of 10 diagnosed concussions, and how persistent migraines, memory impairment, mood swings, sleep disruption, and impulsiveness temporarily derailed her progress through high school. Previously, she had been a high achiever, always cheerfully taking on new responsibilities.

“I became miserable,” she said. “I didn’t want to be here anymore.”

Because of support from her Williston peers and teachers, she made it through after taking a month off of school. But the injury remained, and remains a problem as she moves through her adult life today. Instead of becoming a surgeon, which had been her dream, she will study neuroscience and teach others about the brain.

She encouraged students to take the time to recover and to get help if they are injured. “The last thing a high achiever wants to do is admit vulnerability,” she said. However that’s what’s needed to prevent serious consequences.

“I wish I didn’t have an invisible disability that I could have prevented,” she said.

Students Dedicate Yearbook to Jenna Motyka

Ms. Motyka gives Gabby Mercier a hug.

A standing, whooping, stomping ovation, and even some tears, greeted the dedication of the 2017 Williston Northampton School yearbook, The Log. Its three editorsseniors Emma Reynolds, Gabby Mercier, and Saul Blain—announced at a recent assembly that this year’s edition is dedicated to Jenna Motyka, coordinator of student services.  Mr. Seamon captured video of the moment. The following is the transcript of the dedication, which was read by Emma Reynolds. Continue reading

Student Life Speaker Sheds Light on Teenage Brain

Dr. Abigail Judge addresses students at a recent Student Life assembly.

Teens need to know the difference between “hot” and “cold” cognition, and how making decisions in each of these emotional states can bring vastly different outcomes. Student Life Speaker Abigail Judge, a Cambridge therapist who also teaches at Harvard Medical School and conducts research at Massachusetts General Hospital, connected with her teenage audience using humor and self-deprecation during a recent assembly. Her message: know your brain.

“Hot” cognition occurs when emotions are high, when someone is upset, angry, or sad. Teens in this state should notice their feelings (a tight stomach, sweaty hands, a feeling of anguish, for example) and put their phone down. This is not the time to send a text or reply to a provoking phone call. In the cold light of day, Judge said, we all make better judgment calls on how to interact with people. Continue reading

School-Wide Food Drive Exceeds Goal

The Community Service Club issued a school-wide challenge: donate 1,000 food and personal care items to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. As an incentive, the class with the most donations would get a dress-down day (a most-coveted prize!).

Sophomores Glede Wang, Simon Kim, and Robby Hill, shopped for food to donate before winter break.
Sophomores Glede Wang, Simon Kim, and Robby Hill shopped for food to donate before winter break.

At a recent assembly, Kate Garrity, Director of Student Life Curriculum and the faculty advisor to the Community Service Club announced the winners of the competition—and the fact that as a school, we exceeded our goal, bringing in 1,315 items, weighing in at 1,142 pounds, for needy families.

The Class of 2019 was first in the Upper School, and second overall  with 340 donations. And the Middle School collected 465 donations, which put them in first place for the entire school.

“Be proud of this and feel good about how many hungry families you were able to help,” said Ms. Garrity in announcing the winners. “Let’s do it again next year!”

Service Club Finds Ways to Give Back to Community

Members of the Community Service Club prepare food at Kate's Kitchen, which serves neighbors in need.
Members of the Community Service Club prepare food at Kate’s Kitchen, which serves neighbors in need.

When eight members of the Williston Community Service Club recently volunteered to prepare and serve meals for those in need at Kate’s Kitchen in Holyoke, one student learned something deeper about what it means to lack resources. Emily Yeager ’17 has been a member of the club since her freshman year and co-president since her sophomore year. “At Kate’s Kitchen, they are busiest at the end of the month,” she said. “People are typically paid early in the month and don’t come into the kitchen until the end of the month when the remainder of their paycheck can’t provide for them.”

As the day progressed and the simmering began, she also learned, “Sugar is a good addition to tomato sauce!”

Kate’s Kitchen is branch of Providence Ministries Network, whose mission is to feed, clothe, and house the poor of the Holyoke community. Its volunteers have served approximately one million meals since it was founded in 1980. Holyoke’s citizens face poverty at nearly three times the rate as those in the rest of the Commonwealth.

Kathleen M. Burke, director of community development, described Williston’s students as a “kind, selfless, energetic crew,” adding that they represented their school with flying colors.

Along with Emily, these students volunteered: Rachel Goodman ’20, Sahnet Ramirez ’20, Keyu Lu ’20, Jake Goodman ’19, Simon Kim ’19, Sarah Markey ’22, and Grace Quisenberry ’17.

Checking on the sauce
Checking on the sauce

The Community Service Club has more activities planned for the remainder of the year, according to Yeager. Between Thanksgiving and winter vacations, it will host its third annual food drive to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. It will be running the food drive as a competition among grades, and the winning team will receive a dress-down day, a coveted prize at Williston.

“Once we return from winter break, the Community Service Club will volunteer in the local community,” Yeager said. “Typical volunteer trips are to the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, Riverside Industries in Easthampton, Habitat for Humanity, and the Easthampton Community Center.”

In the spring it will be running its second blood drive on the heels of a recent drive that drew 40 donors, enough to save 120 lives. “We are hoping to bring more opportunities to give back to the Williston community this year,” Yeager said.