Ridgewood encourages students to find their happiness
Ridgewood sophomore students Geenan AbuShanab, Dominique Ordinario and Jose Munoz share their thoughts with each other during a presentation on Project Happiness. | Judy Fidkowski~for~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 7:14AM
NORRIDGE — Ridgewood High School wants to see students happy.
Not a day without homework happy. Not ‘we’ve got a sub today’ happy. Not free pizza in the cafeteria happy. But really happy, exuding real and lasting happiness regardless of exterior factors.
Ridgewood officials are so committed to the effort that they spent several hours Oct. 25 working with students to identify true happiness. The effort included students viewing the award-winning film “Project Happiness,” which follows a senior high class from California on a journey to discover the true nature of human happiness.
Ridgewood also brought leaders of the national Project Happiness group to the school for the Oct. 25 program, hoping to reach students and get a Project Happiness Club started.
“It’s so simple and it can be so powerful,” Emily Crubaugh, Project Happiness educational director, said of youth using positive psychology, conflict resolution and mindfulness. “In just 28 days, four weeks, you can be up to 25 percent happier.”
Brian Rusch, chief operating officer of Project Happiness, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said the program is now in Palo Alto High School. The program was instituted following seven suicides at the school in one year .
“No one was talking about this stuff and they were choosing to ignore it,” Rusch said. “They were trying to avoid talking about it.
“Could we have made a difference with this program for those seven students and maybe saved them?”
The educational programming provided by Project Happiness gets youth to better handle stress. The effort is intended to give youth tools for finding their own happiness and sharing that joy with the world around them.
By focusing on one’s strengths and using positive thinking, anyone can be happy, the Project Happiness experts contend.
Ridgewood student Emily Tomzik said efforts such as last week’s program can affect teens’ lives.
“I saw one person crying during the movie,” Tomzik said. “It made you think. Not even the Dalai Lama had an answer for what true happiness is.”
Many people in the Ridgewood Mentoring Program – business professionals, municipal officials, parents and community members who work with freshmen and a junior or senior assistant mentor once a month – were also on hand for the program.
“I think the program is a good idea,” said Suzy Ghuneim, a Ridgewood parent and mentor. “If little signs of depression are seen in someone and that person gets help, the program will have worked.”