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Operation Dove Drop

Students made and hid hundreds of origami doves around the Upper School to raise mental health awareness and inject some levity while preparing for finals and AP exams.

Over the course of three days in May, the Upper School experienced an infestation—of origami doves. Members of the student chapter of REDgen made and hid more than 400 paper doves around the Upper School to lift spirits, build community, and promote the month of May as Mental Health Awareness month. Students were invited to find as many doves as possible, and turn them in in exchange for a raffle ticket and a chance to win small prizes.

Students smile for a photo with the origami doves they made.

Emily Igwike '24 (left) and Zachary Sardas-Trevorrow '23 counted the number of doves from each grade. The grade that collected the most doves (10th grade) won an out-of-uniform day.

Members of the REDgen student chapter coordinated and organized the event, with resources and support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). REDgen is a local organization that promotes and advocates for youth mental health and well-being, and USM is one of its partners.

In addition to the doves, students hung posters around the Upper School to promote mental health awareness, REDgen, and to encourage students to think about their own mental health. Students also distributed pins with ribbons for individuals to wear, with cards that included available resources for individuals needing help. “More than anything, I think this event raised the image of REDgen within our school,” said Lizzy Perry, Upper School counselor. “This was just a fun, easy thing for students to do. The school year was difficult, so it felt nice to do something informal and low-stakes while promoting a really positive message.”

A paper dove sits on a desk in the library.

A dove waiting to be found in the Stratton Upper School Library.

USM’s Middle School also held a variety of events promoting mental health, including a REDgen resilience week in April, which featured dress-up days that aligned with resiliency-building skills or coping strategies, and a student raffle. The Middle School student chapter of REDgen also made origami doves and hung up posters and flyers.

“I reconnected with so many students when they turned in their doves,” said Perry, “and it led to lots of great conversations. Students are asking to do this again next year and have already generated ideas on how we can make it even better.”

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