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Head of Upper School and Assistant Headmaster for Strategic Initiatives David C. Flocco Ed.D. spent a day in Boston to make a difference not only for MKA students, but also for all students hoping to make smooth and healthy transitions between their secondary school and their collegiate experience. Dr. Flocco was part of a Mental Health Forum with other high school Principals and Heads of School, college Presidents and Deans, corporate human resource executives and CEOs, and mental health professionals from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Healthy Minds Network, and the JED Foundation. 

The group’s charge was simple to say and difficult to accomplish: to both study and to begin to take responsibility for the mental health challenges of young people in America. Throughout the event, Dr. Flocco had the chance to learn from a range of distinguished leaders including Clayton Rose, President of Bowdoin College, Philip Hanlon, President of Dartmouth College, Kerry Brenna, Head of School of Roxbury Latin, and Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America.

Of interest to the group was MKA’s four year strand at the Upper School, within the Health and Wellness Curriculum, that offers age appropriate instruction about mental health, stressors, coping mechanisms, addiction, and associated stigmas. Additionally, participants learned about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies developed and adapted at MKA over the past three years which inform administrative decision making, daily schedules, and the ways in which campuses report on student work. 

Dr. Flocco’s takeaways from the conference reveal a sharpening of focus for him but not a deviation from his core values as an educational leader. He is keenly aware of “the mental health continuum that exists as young people transition from secondary schools to higher education to the workforce.” He is reminded that, “as early as possible, we need to help our young people distinguish between what are the normal trials and tribulations of life (a low grade on an assessment, not getting a lead role, enough playing time, etc.) and the identification of a diagnosable mental health issue, like anxiety or depression.” 

Sheri Bronstein P ‘22, Chief Human Resources Officer at Bank of America, was instrumental in connecting Dr. Flocco with this robust conversation in which she, herself, was an active participant. “MKA has spent time on this topic,” Bronstein said, and Dr. Flocco has “thought a lot about these issues, leading the charge for a healthy schedule for students and intentional curricular change.” Still, more broadly, leaders in a variety of industries, including education, “must come together to think in a systematic way about the transition points between high school, college, and the workplace.”

Both Bronstein and Flocco agree that their day spent in Boston was just the beginning. The group has work to do on behalf of the young people who have put their trust into a developmental system that can and should serve their needs more deliberately, more thoughtfully, and more holistically.