WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield High School students and their teacher hope to offer a night of relaxation and advice with this year’s Girl Thing/Guy Thing event.

Susan Kolesar, a health teacher at Westfield High School, began the Guy Thing in 2004, with the Girl Thing following shortly after. Activities from previous years included hearing anonymous letters from seniors about what they wished they knew as freshmen, open discussions about sensitive topics and presentations from WHS faculty and other members of the Westfield community.

Kolesar created the event in hopes that students would find a community where they could help identify and conquer any issues they may be facing.

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“I want them to realize that everyone has issues they deal with,” she said. “Second, I want them to realize that they can heal by telling their stories at the same time as helping others.”

Senior girls and boys are encouraged to write anonymous letters detailing their experiences during high school, whether they be positive or negative, including any important lessons they have learned. Selected letters will be read during the event, in order to help underclassman face any challenges that high school might bring their way.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, stress, drugs/alcohol and mental health. The letters are a crucial aspect to The Girl thing/Guy Thing event, Kolesar said. In order to move forward, organizers are hoping for at least 10 letters and 10 to 15 student facilitators. The anonymous letters should ideally be turned into Kolesar’s school mailbox by Friday, Jan. 19.

In recent years the event has faced several challenges, including scheduling, funding and student involvement.

“It takes a lot of hard work and time to make this program happen,” Kolesar said. “We used to run the program during the school day to encourage and enable more students to attend. However, there were difficulties with this so we moved it to the nighttime. It’s pretty hard to convince teens to come out on a school night when they are tired, have activities and homework.”

Despite those challenges, several seniors approached Kolesar this year in hopes of continuing the tradition. Kolesar was thrilled to see that so many students were passionate about the event.

“It was refreshing to see students want to continue this meaningful program. I know there is tremendous value in it so to see students recognize that as well affirms my feelings,” she said. “I like to take a lot on myself but this year I want to step back and see if the students taking the lead helps grow the program. It really should be a program by the students for the students.”

Seniors who are looking to offer their time to help read anonymous letters and/or facilitate the Girl Thing/Guy Thing Events can contact Susan Kolesar at skolesar@westfieldnjk12.org. Students can also reach out to Sarah Ward at sarah.k.ward23@gmail.com and Claire Hunter at cshunter15@gmail.com for information about The Girl Thing and Chris Calimano at calimanoc@yahoo.com for The Guy Thing. 

Kayla Miedrzynski is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.