Program Mission

Helping generations in the high school to college pipeline find value in connection, community and resilience as building blocks of emotional wellness and mental illness prevention.

Student Testimonials

Program Offerings

1-Day Program

A great hands-on alternative to traditional speaking engagements for high schools and colleges.

1 Week Program

An opportunity to build a meaningful week of emotional wellness and mental health awareness on your campus.

Program Team

John Tessitore

Our Founder and main program facilitator during our time on campus. John has spoken and shown his documentary "Legends Never Die" at over 40 high schools and colleges. John's passion to show students value in connection and community happens as much during the 1:1 conversations as it does in our formal program offering.

Mike Esposito

The program coordinator and main point of contact for planning and messaging. Mike does the work to make sure students, administrators and counselors are comfortable with the themes we're bringing to campus and that we're addressing needs specific to that campus.

Emily Meeks


Emily is joining our team this summer after graduating from Virginia Tech with a Masters in Public Health. She’ll lead our program evaluation efforts and help design programs that tie stories to culturally competent research pools and learning techniques. Emily also ensures our programs comply with safe reporting standards (ReportingonSuicide.org).


Counselors & Social Workers

We work with the counseling department at every school before we step on campus and always invite them to be part of the day or week. We often coordinate efforts deeply but if additional resources are needed, we'll bring volunteers with us to ensure students have a pathway to seek help during any of our time on campus.

Program Goals

1. Curate a compassionate, accepting environment to discuss emotional wellness and mental health in

2. Enhance understanding and awareness of existing resources on campus (i.e. counseling center)

3. Build peer respect for students experiencing mental health stressors and disorders

4. Show students it’s possible to thrive with a mental illness

5. Explain the connection between emotional wellness, social cohesion and mental illness

6. Demonstrate that tools like community and connection are among the most powerful we have to building emotional resilience

7. Bridge the gap between “sufferers and non-sufferers” to help push the Mental Health Movement forward and lean into conversations with each other

Program Themes

Social justice in the Mental Health Movement

Emotional wellness and it's responsiveness to socioeconomic conditions

How to build resilience through connection and community

Social stigma versus self stigma

Connecting the buzzwords in "mental health"

The power of listening

Conversations take practice and basic skills

How to seek help during mental health crisis

Delivery Models

1-Day Program

For high schools, our 1-day program works best on an assembly schedule that allows students to engage in two separate interactive presentations in the early and late morning. Then students move through classes and break out groups in the afternoon, with each student being able to participant in at least one small group discussion. We also have the ability to collaborate with health and other classes to target specific groups of students and keep a traditional bell schedule. For colleges, promotion is key to building two separate events and targeting to them to applicable allies on campus. We generally work through mental health and social justice advocacy clubs to cover the traditional bases of promotion then coordinate with the Counseling Department and media groups on to build out additional channels to draw students in.

1 Week Program

In both high schools and colleges, a 1-week program allows a swath of conversations to materialize naturally in and around our time on campus. That accepting, engaging environment is where students first learn and feel comfortable sharing their stories. Each week engagement will look somewhat different, but in high schools we use the lunch room environment to facilitate introductory conversations throughout the first 3 days. The student center or a hub on college campuses works similarly. During the first 2 days, we partner with health and government classes (applicable college classes) to give an interactive presentation to every student on social justice in the Mental Health Movement. On the 2nd and 3rd day, we'll use the lunchroom (student hub) again to survey students on attitudes, beliefs, skills and knowledge around emotional wellness. This data can be tied into already existing 2nd hand information to bolster understanding of the campus environment and can be directly turned around to inform specific topics for break out groups, which are the focus of day 4. Day 3 we use an assembly schedule to gather every student in the same room (or close to it) to screen a documentary "Legends Never Die" and tell the story of John Cleaver Kelly. Promotion efforts build this screening in the college environment. Day 4 are break out groups, small group conversations guided by JCK Foundation members and both school and volunteer counselors and social workers. These are great opportunities for students to practice telling their stories and listening to others. It's a skill we have to practice. Our last day is focused on letting the community know what happened on campus. We'll sponsor an event and hold a community discussion to talk about how we can build on progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find more detailed information?

Our full programming overview is available by reaching out to [email protected] It contains samples of our presentations, engagement activities, surveying methodology, and our full thesis and supporting materials for the themes we bring to campus. With that being said, we are listeners first and would love to hear the needs of your school before we start talking about our program.

How can we get you to our school?

Please shoot an email to [email protected] or [email protected] It all starts with a conversation! We can help guide you in how to best advocate to bring a program like ours to campus. You're not alone!

Do students leave with anything physical?

We distribute campus counseling resource reminders at every school we go to (link here for sample). We also distribute PASS Re+Minder Cards which is an evidence-based resource to help communities and individuals manage daily stressors and stimulate the mental health discussion (link here for sample). Our personal favorite are the "You're Not Alone" postcards that encourage students to write positive messages to others around campus.

Do you comply with safe reporting standards when talking about suicide?

First off, when we are telling a story that involves suicide, we always focus on how that person lived their life, not how they left us. We also follow the guidelines that are published on ReportingonSuicide.org (link here).

What happens to the students we can't reach?

We can't reach every student isolating themselves in their room but we can create a community that makes it obvious that opening up about emotional wellness or mental stressors and illnesses is ok. We can create a culture that envelops those individuals with trust and even puts the language in one of their friends hands to lean into that conversation. We can even have those friends practice that conversation. We can create that environment that not everyone will have to come to a program to "get it." It will be carried by leaders on campus who think emotional wellness is a cause worth fighting for.

Student Testimonials