PNW BOCES Staff and Fox Meadow Alumni Turn Out for CODA Walk

October 01, 2018

To push mental health and substance abuse issues “Out of the Shadows,” Fox Meadow High School and PNWBOCES staff participated in the inaugural Co-Occurring Disorders Awareness Walk on Sunday at Pace University in Pleasantville.
Several Fox Meadow alumni who had been active in the high school’s CODA club also joined in the 2-mile walk, sponsored by the Harris Project. The walk highlighted the serious problems faced by young people with mental health issues like anxiety and depression when they turn to drugs and alcohol.
“The CODA Club helped me through issues that I faced,” said recent graduate Colby Kelland. “Just knowing you are not alone is a big help. I came out today because I wanted to show my support.”  Fox Meadow’s CODA Club works to decrease the stigma around mental health issues in the hope that students who share their problems will be less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to bury them. 
Qadar Chevalier, another alumnus, said joining the walk was his way of supporting current students who are trying to overcome mental health and addiction issues by being open about them. Staff said they were also walking to raise awareness about Co-Occurring Disorders.
“It’s one step at a time, one person at a time striving to bring attention to this cause,” said teacher Patti Gallo, one of the club’s advisors. “We all have a responsibility to be proactive in working toward prevention and treatment.”
Principal Nicole Ginexi said the CODA Club has been “invaluable to the culture of our campus and has touched so many of our students' lives in important ways.” The club has given staff and students opportunities to build awareness, understanding and acceptance of Co-Occurring Disorders.
 “On various occasions, we have watched proudly as our Fox Meadow students became leaders in this movement by working to reduce the stigma associated with Co-Occurring Disorders,” she said. “The Fox Meadow crew is therefore honored to participate in the Out of the Shadows CODA WALK.”
Andrew Ecker, coordinator of Guidance and Child Study Center for PNW BOCES, said the agency exists to ensure pathways to success for every student, including those diagnosed with co-occurring disorders.
“I'm joining the CODA walk because I want to ensure students with co-occurring disorders have their pathways to success.” Increasing the public's understanding of co-occurring disorders will help reduce stigma, increase prevention and treatment and ultimately improve lives, he said.
The Harris Project was begun by Stephanie Marquesano after she lost her 19-year-old son to a drug overdose in 2013. Marquesano, whose son Harris was dealing with extreme anxiety and ADHD at the time of his death, spoke at Fox Meadow several years ago and invited students there to join her mission. They responded enthusiastically by starting a CODA club. While a student there, Chevalier wrote a song about mental health issues that was played as Sunday’s CODA Walk kicked off.
The Fox Meadow/PNW BOCES team that walked Sunday included: Suzanne Bruce, Alexandra Cami, Stacey Chiarella, Nicole Ginexi, Lisa Hammel, Peter Iandiorio, Jennifer Wilson, Martin Kearns, Mary Ellen Matranga, Hector Rodriguez, Jessica Wayte, Patti Gallo, Mike Colvin, Patty Lucido, Cynthia Sosnowski, Juan Miranda, Pamela Hurtado, Andrew Eckert, Qadar Chevalier and Colby Kelland.
Cutlines: Fox Meadow High School and PNW BOCES staff and alumni joined Sunday’s CODA Walk at Pace University in Pleasantville.