Circles Provide Students the Opportunity to Grow, Connect, and Share


Yesterday morning, during periods A and B, students participated in “Circles,” which allowed them to express themselves and a variety of relatable topics. 


“Circles” was started last year by Hillel’s Dean of Students Mr. Benjamin Thompson-Echevarria and it aims to connect students by forming small groups of about fifteen to twenty teenagers. These groups have the freedom to discuss issues ranging from the communal to the personal level in order to validate students’ concerns and feelings. Most meetings open up with an icebreaker, led by a faculty supervisor, that helps students learn more about their peers. Then, meetings begin to tackle a specific issue. 


In last year’s programs, students learned about the harmful effects of vaping, JUULling, and using similar products. Students became more aware of the health risks involved when using devices that release nicotine, as well as how to deal with pressure from peers who try and convince others to use such products. According to, nicotine “… causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving… [it] is a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.” Though knowledge of the underlying risks of nicotine (and similar addictive substances) has been proven over years of meticulous study, it is still important for the information to be communicated to students, who may not be aware of vaping’s effect on the body. 


This year, the topic of discussion will center around the topic of stress. High School Guidance Counselor Mrs. Berley said, “This year the circles are focusing on stress – how to manage it, how to figure out the best coping skills, and how to make sure that stress works in your lifestyle and doesn’t hinder it. I’m really hopeful that it will be a great success. I’m really hoping that the students get a lot out of it.”


When asked for their thoughts about “Circles,” students were generally positive. Gabriel Roitburd said, “‘Circles’ is a great opportunity for people to communicate with one another and make new friends.” Similarly, Dan Werta commented that “Circles,” “…are a great way to express ourselves and how we’re feeling in our teenage years.” 


Being open to discussing personal topics is essential for today’s adolescents. Though social media may provide an outlet for some, it doesn’t have the same benefits as social interaction. However, “Circles,” and the creation of similar school programs across the country, have marked a national shift in focus: to open up about our mental health. According to the World Health Organization, “1 in 7 (14%) 10-19 year-olds experience mental health conditions, yet these remain largely unrecognized and untreated.” Consequently, Hillel’s “Circles” aim to support every student, regardless of mental status. Being open to expressing oneself, understanding others, and creating a sense of community are all an antidote to the pressures that come with being young adults in the modern age.


“Circles” has had a great start and will continue to positively impact students monthly for the rest of the school year.