First-Year Students Serve Northeastern Through Activism: Behind the Smile

Introduction By Grace Di Cecco, Service-Learning Teacher Assistant

This spring, freshman honors students in Professor Sarah Finn’s First-Year Writing course “Science, Technology, and Human Values” have participated in Service-Learning by joining on-campus activist groups that relate to course themes of science, technology, and human values. Their service work has informed their learning in the course as we explore how writing can be used for activism and enacting change, and they have joined vibrant communities on campus by getting involved with issues they are passionate about. Below, students share the causes they have dedicated themselves to and reflect on their experiences so far. This is the first post that kicks off a series of six about First-Year students serving Northeastern through Activism. Stay tuned for more posts!

Behind the SMILE

By Service-Learning Students Sean Donnelly, Elizabeth Trager, Nuria Romero


Pictured Above: Sean Donnelly, Elizabeth Trager, Nuria Romero, with Professor Sarah Finn

This past semester, we joined the student activist group Behind the SMILE. Its goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. Our experience with the group was characterized by deepening our personal consciousness about the topic and becoming aware and educated. Every week, we attended meetings where we held discussions regarding relevant topics related to mental illness, ranging from eating disorders to the representation of mental illness in the media. It was a collaborative process in which everyone had the opportunity to ask anonymous questions and contribute to the discussion. This way, there was always a great variety of perspectives that we later took to the classroom. We created projects for which we investigated the language around mental illness, rural mental health, and the impact of misrepresentation of mental illnesses in the media. We are using the skills we acquired in class to contribute to planning a fundraising walk. Through this walk, Behind the SMILE is looking to extend its impact and raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It will take place on campus on April 15th. We are all excited to work on planning and publicizing it in the coming weeks.

By joining the group we found a friendly, welcoming community. We met people passionate about the cause and eager to act, learn, and listen without judgement. By participating in Behind the SMILE, we also observed the importance of educating the rest of the Northeastern community. Even if you aren’t personally affected by mental illness right now, the chances that you never encounter someone in your lifetime with a mental illness are unlikely. The Service- Learning component of the class not only truly deepened our learning experience, but also inspired us to keep acting towards bettering our school community.



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