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St. Maria Goretti student comes back to school with ideas for many events after attending seminar

June 03, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Saint Maria Goretti junior Jessica Swarner started the school's Positivity Club, and classmates now post positive post it notes on the lockers of fellow students.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

When Jessica Swarner of Hagerstown attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth, or HOBY, leadership seminar last summer, little did she realize the impact it would have on her school. She returned to St. Maria Goretti High School for her junior year, inspired to start the Positivity Club.

In its inaugural year, the club hosted events like Post-it Notes Day and High Five in the Hallway. On Valentine’s Day, foam heart magnets with conversation heart messages were placed on all lockers, so all students, whether they were part of a couple or not, got a Valentine.

“It brightens your day. You meet new people and it makes students happy to be here,” said Jessica, 16.

The Post-it Notes Day, which involves writing positive notes to place on classmates’ lockers, “was brought back by popular demand” for a second time this school year, Jessica said.

Positivity Club members pass out stacks of Post-it notes, and students are encouraged to write something positive about friends, staff and students they don’t know, but might have noticed something positive to write about them.

Messages such as “You’re kind. You’re a leader in the school”; “Be confident. You light up the school”; and “You don’t need makeup. You’re beautiful as you are” posted on mirrors in the girls’ bathroom, are examples of the uplifting messages students received.

Jessica said she was given a boost when a freshman posted a note on Jessica’s locker that she was her role model.

“I absolutely loved that,” Jessica said.

To get the school year off to a good start, freshmen were greeted with cookies and a note about the club.

“We’ve had lots of positive feedback,” Jessica said about the club’s activities.

This Memorial Day weekend, Jessica worked as volunteer staff at a statewide HOBY seminar at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. She was on the team that compiled the list for thank you’s and will be the treasurer of the technical team.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Jessica said.

More than 200 sophomores from all over the state were expected to attend the motivational leadership event.

School guidance counselors recommend students to participate and Jessica was chosen as an alternate last year. She also attended the weeklong World Leadership Congress, or WLC, which was held in Chicago last summer.

Jessica has kept in touch with other HOBY and WLC friends through their Facebook pages and has gotten several ideas for Positivity Club activities from them.

She said many students talked about the atmosphere of their schools and wished they were more positive, which is what led to the Positivity Club. Even though St. Maria Goretti has a family atmosphere, Jessica said the club is being “proactive, especially for the freshmen.” 

Jessica said that before participating in the leadership seminar, she was a leader in the school “to a certain extent,” but is much more so now.

“People know me more because these activities involve everyone. The goal is to reach out to certain people that might not be as involved in school,” she said.

Jessica is captain of the girls lacrosse team, plays volleyball, is a member of the National Honor Society, works on the school newspaper, prom committee, Rosary Group, Politics Club and is a Kairos (retreat) leader.

She will be co-editor of the yearbook next year.

Jessica would like to go to Georgetown University and become a lawyer.

She is the daughter of Mike and Jackie Swarner.

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