By Elysia Richards-Durham ’19
Teenagers make mistakes. Parents aren’t always the easiest to talk to, so when individuals need someone to talk to, Ms. Tatiana Rodriguez is in charge of a program named SPARK.
It stands for “seeking prevention and reinforcing knowledge.”
“It is a safe space where Midwood students can receive individual counseling or participate in group activities and discussions,” stated Ms. Tatiana Rodriguez. “I specialize in drugs and alcohol prevention. However, all students are welcome to participate in SPARK activities during lunch or a free period.”
Ms. Rodriguez had firsthand experience with observing tough situations and decided she wanted to make a change.
She said, “I have childhood friends and an uncle who struggled with addiction. After witnessing the physical, mental and emotional toll it took on my loved ones, I decided to make a difference.”
Before working as the SPARK leader, Rodriguez worked at a halfway house residential facility as a substance abuse counselor.
“After working with adults who battle addiction, I felt it would be great to do preventative work with youth,” Rodriguez stated.
Not only does she feel that working with students is great, the students do too.
Kianna Harris ’18 said, “I go to the SPARK room because that’s my escape in school. There, I am comfortable voicing how I feel about things as well as having shared experiences with individuals in the room. I feel as though I made a lot of connections with some who I call friends.”
Another student, Emerald Dorcelly ’19, stated, “I would recommend students to go because I feel like a lot of kids don’thave anyone to talk to about problems such as relationships.”
Dorcelly ’19 said the SPARK room is there even if you just want to be in a peaceful environment.
Ephraim Joseph ’18 stated, “It’s an oasis for those who have a bad day and wants to get something off their chest.”
SPARK also allows others to connect and relate with one another.
Kevin Mercado ’19 said, “I find SPARK beneficial because there are others who face the same problems as you and you have someone to discuss your issues with.”
There is a variety of topics that are discussed at SPARK.
“We discuss healthy versus unhealthy relationships, the consequence of marijuana use, effective communication, self-esteem, stress management, etc,” Rodriguez said.
Harris ’18 noted, “I find SPARK beneficial because there’s confidentiality and a wide range of topics to talk about so conversations are never bored. I am always intrigued.”
In Ms. Rodriguez’s classes, she teaches life skills and does projects about drugs and violence.
“Some of the topics are stereotyping, myths, denial of drug use, meditation, anger management. Each lesson begins with an icebreaker game,” said Ms. Rodriguez.
Ms. Robin Igla, a Health teacher who frequently invites
Ms. Rodriguez to speak to her Health classes, stated, “She always starts out with icebreakers which may or may not correlate with the lesson but it’s a way to get the students excited and lightened up.”
Icebreakers lead to the formation of new bonds and positive outlooks on life.
“She talks about things like how to make good decisions and about being mindful. Being aware of yourself and your surroundings is important with the current events that’s going on in the nation,” Igla said.
Ms. Igla said that mass shootings are a good example of why being aware is important.
She said, “If people were aware of how they felt, they would be able to get help before their world implodes.”
Igla stated that Ms. Rodriguez is a wonderful resource and a person you can reach out to for help.