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Ask Anything Site Helps Teens Manage Stress

The Ask Anything site at Scarsdale High School allows students to e-mail questions to student volunteers.

No one ever said the teenage years were easy. 

There have been a seemingly infinite number of books and movies that chronicle these tumultuous years, often focusing on the angst and sense of alienation teenagers tend to feel.

It can be challenging to find your place in the social hierarchy of the high school caste system while simultaneously juggling schoolwork and extracurricular activities. 

Many students, feeling misunderstood, or simply needing someone to air their grievances to, are left wondering to whom they can turn for help.

 The Ask Anything site (http://web.scarsdaleschools.k12.ny.us/askanything/) at Scarsdale High School was created a year and a half ago with these students in mind.

According to Scarsdale High School psychologist Dr. Ernie Collabolletta, some kids may be intimidated about walking into the psychologist's office with a problem or a question. 

The Ask Anything site allows Scarsdale High School students to confidentially submit a question through the site, and receive a response from one of their peers, a student volunteer known as a RealKid.

Although the RealKids are not trained professionals, they do receive some training from the school psychologist.

Their perspective can be helpful to a student who might fear that he would be judged by a friend or acquaintance for asking an embarrassing question.

Typically, the initial question will be read by the school psychologist or psychology intern, who will then forward it to a RealKid, omitting the student's e-mail address. 

Once the RealKid has formulated an answer, the psychologist will look it over for appropriateness and send the response back to the student.  This allows the psychologist to guide the process but, ultimately, the answer comes directly from the student's peer. 

"The inquiries tend to involve issues of stress, social relationships, and negotiating the demands of Scarsdale High School," says John Klemme, Scarsdale High School principal.  

The site was publicized in its beginning stages, and now occupies a prominent place under the "Activities" tab on the Scarsdale High School website.

The main page depicts a colored-pencil drawing of several smiling teenagers in a circle, and cheerfully advertises itself as, "The place to go for some advice about friends, about life, about anything."   

Students are able to submit their question directly through this page, after agreeing to the terms of use and disclaimer, and signing on to the Scarsdale High School site. 

The site, despite its promising start, remains underutilized with an average of only one or two student inquiries per month.  Perhaps too few students know about the site or are unsure of how it operates. 

In the current climate of impending budget cuts and reduced services, the site provides a way to connect with the student body without much added cost.

When asked if the Scarsdale school budget cuts would affect the site, Collabolletta said, "No, it won't affect it at all." 

Although the stresses of the teen experience seem as much a rite of passage as attending the senior prom, the hope is that the Ask Anything site will provide peer-level guidance to help students deal with the uncertainties of teenage life.

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