Commack High School’s Class of 2017 made a charitable contribution to Project HEAL. Co-founder, Liana Rosenman interviewed her former High School Special Education Teacher, Ms. McManus.
How did you first learn about Project HEAL?
I first heard of Project HEAL through both the founder, Liana Rosenman. Liana reached out to me once Project HEAL was off the ground, and I couldn’t more proud than to be a part of helping her reach her dream of helping others. She always had a quiet inner strength when she was a student at Commack High School. Seeing her harness that strength and focus it to achieve her greatest goal; helping others has been my greatest accomplishment in teaching. I still proudly wear my purple Project HEAL bracelet (one of the first ones sold and by far the best too!) and tell anyone who asks me about it. Heck, sometimes I tell people about Liana and Project HEAL just, because I am so proud and awed by what she has been able to do.
Why is supporting Project HEAL so important to you?
For many years, I have dealt with being overweight and not liking my body and how I looked. I also see eating to deal with my emotions. When I’m sad or upset, or hurt or stressed I eat. I never had gotten to the point where I would binge or purge or control it in other ways, but I felt a kinship to Liana in that she too struggled with her own inner demons. Her inner demons pushed her to deny herself subsistence and mine pushed me to overfed mine. I saw her struggle and gain strength from that struggle and then turn that into something to make a difference in the world. I really do try to emulate what Liana and Kristina have done with Project HEAL. I look at them as my inspiration. I truly believe a teacher never stops learning, and Liana has taught me several times over to never let anything beat you down. That the best way to defeat those demons is to harness it, shape it and use it to defend yourself and build yourself back up.
Commack High School’s Class of 2017 decided to donate to Project HEAL. Can you explain how that came about?
I have been the class advisors for the class of 2017. These young men and women were an exceptional bunch, and I saw a lot of the desire to help others that I see in Liana. As we got closer to the time for their prom to happening, many of the class expressed the ideas that they hated that part of their prom ticket cost would go to things that couldn’t help others (centerpieces made of flowers and favors). We talked about coming up with a way to incorporate centerpieces that could be reused and providing a favor that did some good in the world. The class officers decided on making a donation. They were charged with coming up with 5 organizations to donate to. They had to research them and come up with a small blurb and why that organization should get the donation (what the organization did, where was its homebase, how much they raised, how much money went into the organization to help people). I made one up on Project Heal and slipped it in with the other 5. As a committee, they read all 6 and then took a vote. They voted for Project HEAL, and it was due to the facts that so much of the money raised goes to help those who seek help, to educate and that Liana was a hometown girl that was making great strides in the world. These students were so very proud of her and wanted to show her and Project HEAL that they believed in her and what she was trying to do with her organization. I didn’t even have to sell it to them! They picked it! LOL! We then chose to write a simple sign, printed it on some red glittery paper, put it in a nice frame and propped it on the table. Centerpiece and favor all in one! Saved the environment and gave to a good cause.
How did the class of 2017 raise those funds?
Technically we raised the money through the sale of prom tickets. We came up with the amount of the donation by figuring out how much we would have spent on buying flower centerpieces for each table to the prom and on favors. We added them together and figured we would have spent about $4,600 on those two items. We then rounded it to the nearest whole number ($5,000) and made that our donation. The students were happy that part of their prom would be going to towards helping others get better and can share in the happy moments in life like prom once they beat their demons.
How Can Teachers be Helpful in Early Recognition and Treatment of Eating Disorders?
The best way I can think of is by paying attention to their students. With the way teachers are being pushed towards testing and scores and being better than the next teacher, district, state, and country in scores; I think teachers need to remember to really look at their students. Get to know them. Become vested in the individual, not in their scores. I know that for myself, just knowing there was a teacher who saw me, saw who I was and that at times I was a scared mess who needed someone to just say “hey, need to talk” meant all the world to me. I think that’s my job. That’s calling. Not getting the knowledge into those little sponges but to let them know that there is always some there for them. Also, we, not just teachers, need to be more sensitive to those around us. To know that little ears are always listening and if we sit there and tear ourselves down because were not “thin enough” or “ate too much” or a plethora of other things we make great impacts on others. I also wish there were training given to teachers. Courses we had to take to be better prepared. I remember seeing Liana in High School and thinking such a lovely young lady but so quiet and withdrawn and looking so hurt. I never wanted to make her uncomfortable, but I also didn’t want her to think no one cared. I think if I had better training that just going on my gut instinct I might have been able to help more. At the time, I just offered to be there and help in any way she may have needed. I realized I left too much for Liana to do on her, and I think more training on the mental health needs and the physical attributes to look for would have been more helpful. I think teachers need to see and hear firsthand accounts especially seeing that eating disorders are start earlier and earlier.
What Ice cream flavor best describes your personality? Why?
ONE? Only one?! Not possible! LOL! 😊 If I had to pick one ice cream flavor that best described me I’d say Rocky Road. The name says a lot about how I feel about life. That life isn’t always smooth and easy but as long as you stay focused and believe in yourself the end will be sweet. The fact that the base is chocolate and most people like chocolate like most people like me. LOL! The peanuts are in there and they are usually a little hard like I can be but the marshmallows let you know that I’m really just a mush on the inside. LOL!