Teens urged to connect, advocate, respond and encourage their peers


The new I C.A.R.E. program was officially launched at a Saturday volleyball tournament in Imlay City.


IMLAY CITY — The Spartan Volleyball team kicked off Imlay City High School’s new I C.A.R.E. program with their Mental Health Awareness Event on Saturday, October 30. The volleyball tournament hosted local schools Brown City, Marine City, Cass City, St. Clair and Port Huron Northern.

High school counselor Liz Makedonsky spoke about mental health concerns that she sees in students, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, bullying, dating violence, anti-social behavior, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, self-harming behaviors, and suicidal ideations.

“These statistics, along with personal experience, have led to the creation of I C.A.R.E., our mental wellness mission,” she said.

I C.A.R.E. stands for I Connect, I Advocate, I Respond, I Encourage. The program is encouraging students to ask their friends a simple question, “Are you okay?” and explaining that this question can do wonders for checking in on the mental health of their friends. This program is unique to Imlay City High School where it originated.

Parent and mental wellness advocate Erin Wetzel stated, “Today’s event is about more than awareness. We want students equipped with some basic tools to advocate and respond.”

Students and family members are encouraged to seek out help if they notice change in their teen’s behavior. It’s also important to talk with a doctor, mental health specialist or counselor, or work with the school to create a plan for your teen’s success and to connect with other families.

Focusing on creating positive relationships with students, families, and community is one of the most important things the district does, said Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Dina Tallis.

“Educating students does not just include reading, math, science and social studies. We have an obligation to provide an environment that meets the needs of the whole child.

Attending to the needs of the whole child includes ensuring that, in addition to academics, students are healthy (mentally and physically), safe, supported, engaged and challenged.”

Tallis notes that the district added a professional licensed social worker to their staff who has established classroom lessons for students on friendship skills, sharing and caring. The district also offers one-on-one or small group social work sessions for students. At the middle school and high school level, students have daily opportunities to connect with school counselors who focus on providing support for students in any capacity needed.

The event was sponsored by local businesses and residents including Milnes Chevrolet, Lumberjack Shack, Yarbrough Insurance Company, On the Avenue Salon, Imlay City’s Women’s Networking Group, Indigo Lavender Farm, Close To My Heart, Terrie Brewer and Ron Rickard.