Stagg students invited on Lady Gaga stage during Las Vegas show
Two Stagg High School students were among 16 teens invited on stage at a Lady Gaga concert in Las Vegas. Morgan Sukalo and Persephone Valdes represented Stagg’s participation as one of only 8 schools in the country to provide Teen Mental Health First Aid training in a pilot program supported by the artist’s Born This Way Foundation and the National Council for Behavioral Health.
Sukalo and Valdes were part of a two-day meeting with the Born This Way Foundation to evaluate the first year of the training that taught teens how to respond to and get help if they or a friend are struggling with mental health concerns.
“It really means a lot that the training was brought to Stagg and I was able to take part in it,” Valdes said. “This is mostly because of the personal experiences I’ve had surrounding struggles with mental health. The fact that this information was brought to school makes me feel even more comfortable with the idea of speaking out when I feel that there’s an issue.”
Lady Gaga works with high school students including two students from Stagg High school in District 230. Photo courtesy of DIstrict 230
While in Las Vegas earlier this summer, “we talked about upcoming improvements and changes in the tMHFA program and what our thoughts were on these,” said Sukalo. “All of the students actually sat down with Lady Gaga’s mom and she asked us about the program and our own personal experiences with it. At one point, when all of the kids were talking to her mom, Lady Gaga actually came out to talk to us!“
“After Lady Gaga came in – and after hugging her three times – she sat down with us and told us about her foundation and wanted to know if this program was truly helping us,” Sukalo added. “After talking to her for a bit, she then invited us to her show later on that evening and asked if we would be willing to go up on stage with her so she could introduce us. When we were at her show, this was probably the most magical experience that I have ever had.”
At the show, Lady Gaga introduced the students and they stayed on stage as she performed “A Million Reasons.“ All of the students held onto each other and swayed. Sukalo was at the end of the line and Lady Gaga’s mom joined the line, put her arm around Sukalo.
“It was absolutely amazing meeting and being on stage with Lady Gaga,” said Valdes. “It’s one of those things that you’d never believe will happen to you. Not once has it crossed my mind that I’d be where I was that day.”
Stagg High School Social Worker Shannon Mongan chaperoned the students to the meeting with the Born This Way Foundation. She also was part of the PPS Team and Health Teachers who coordinated the mental health training at the school. Stagg staff looks forward to continuing the training this coming school year.
Stagg High School students Persephone Valdes (back row second from right) and Morgan Sukalo (front row third from the right) were among 16 students from across the United States to meet with Lady Gaga (front center) to discuss the Teen Mental Health First Aid program offered at 8 schools in a pilot program supported by the artist’s Born This Way Foundation and the National Council for Behavioral Health.
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Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.
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