Christina de Fontnouvelle ’12
On November 2, Kathi Meyer Sullivan talked to students about her daughter Taylor, who died from alcohol intoxication after wandering from a party, and the important message she leaves behind.
In an hour-long presentation, Sullivan told Taylor’s story while interspersing anecdotes about how Taylor’s death has affected herself, her family, and the many students Sullivan has spoken to in the past.
During her talk, Sullivan made a special effort to try to really connect to students and their lives rather than preaching from afar.
“I want you to imagine me as not Taylor’s mom, but as your mom, your family, your friends,” said Sullivan. “I want you to see them talking to you, talking with you, not me.”
Sullivan’s presentation met a largely positive reception from students, who felt that her words and her message seemed more genuine than those of other talks they had heard.
“I liked it,” said Samantha Kumarasena ’12, “I thought she did a good job of addressing important problems without coming off as false. Her presentation also opened my eyes to the real seriousness of teenage partying and the surprising (at least to me) prevalence of the problems she addressed.”
Contrary to rumors that the administration had Sullivan speak as a response to recent digressions at the night game, the high school actually had planned the assembly last spring.
“We had heard about her from another school,” said Assistant Principal Lynne Novogroski, “the feedback was that she was a fabulous speaker, powerful but not preachy, so we decided to invite her to speak here.”
Faculty as well as students were affected by Sullivan’s words.
“I thought [Sullivan’s talk] was very empathetic and very powerful,” said Assistant Principal Nora Curran, “it was really good how she emphasized the importance of care, of not leaving your friends, of making that phone call to help.”
Although most students had a positive experience listening to Sullivan, some students felt ill at ease at some points in her presentation.
“Though I agreed with her message, her references to God and Heaven made me feel somewhat uncomfortable,” said one student who wished to remain anonymous.
Nevertheless, Sullivan’s greater message prevailed over her occasional religious references to make for a truly meaningful talk.
Sullivan encourages students to email her if they have any questions, comments, or experiences they would like to share: “I welcome student reactions; hearing about how Taylor’s story helps others is the most rewarding part of this for me,” said Sullivan, “I encourage you to contact me and share if you have any questions, comments, or reactions. This is an open discussion.”
Students can reach Sullivan any time via her cell phone number, 508-369-2518, or her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.