Erika Eller | Staff Writer

Comet Conversations, a program for those who just need to talk, is now at the middle school. Comet Conversations is a program  in which teachers can place a logo outside of their door, meaning that they are open at all times for students who may need someone to listen. Mason Middle School Principal Tonya McCall said the goal of the program is to let students know that there are people who will stop to listen to them whenever they are struggling with a problem.

“The goal (of) our program (is to have) someone (who) kids can go to when they feel like they just need to talk about whatever issues are going on,” McCall said.

While many stressful situations can plague a student’s life, McCall said the program is specifically meant for serious conversations. “(It’s) reserved for more serious type issues,” McCall said. “So not the issues of, I didn’t study for my test and so having a bad day, but I’m feeling sad and I can’t figure out how to pull myself out of that. Or, some bad things are going on at home and I don’t know who I can share that with. Or, something bad’s really happening with my friend and I don’t  know how to intervene, so those types of things.”

Eighth grade art teacher John Benham and eighth grade history teacher Kyle Hamilton were the first to bring the idea to the middle school.

“It was originally Mr. Benham’s idea, to bring a program to Mason Middle School,” Hamilton said. “He really got the idea from a former teacher at the high school who did something similar there and it seemed to have a good impact at the high school so Mr. Benham knew about this and wanted to bring a similar program to the middle school.”

According to McCall, Benham first brought the idea to the faculty using what’s called an ignite talk, similar to what students are doing along with their passion projects.

“(Mr. Benham), gave what we call an Ignite Talk–those are what we’re asking students to do with their passion projects,” McCall said. “He gave one of those and gave some background information about what Comet Conversations are. He went over the various types of conversations that could be had by students, gave us some big picture statistics on background of (the) number of students that, for example, are experiencing some of these types of topics that  we’re bringing up.”

Benham said the purpose of Comet Conversations was to give students an environment where they could express their feelings and know someone is willing to listen.

“One of the purposes of the Comet Conversation is to create an environment where students can express their feelings and know they can always find someone who will listen,” Benham said. “The Comet Conversation Program doesn’t turn teachers into counselors but does provide them with the tools to become better listeners and better prepared for difficult conversations.  The ultimate goal is to get students and individuals the help they need.”

Besides having someone to talk to, guidance counselor Karen Long said the most important thing is that it is okay to speak up.

“The biggest message we want to get out there to kids is: please ask for help,” Long said. “Some kids think it’s a weakness to ask for help; it’s actually the strongest thing, the most courageous thing. In the long run, it’s going to be better for you, for any student to ask.”