VARSA In The News

As seen in the Vashon Beachcomber (Commentary)

Finding Ways to Foster Better Mental Health on Vashon

Selene Dalinis

Supporting yourself, your family, and friends, can go a long way.

I am Selene, an eighth-grade student at McMurray Middle School and one of the Unofficial Mayors of Vashon Island.

A couple of facts about me: I love reading, writing, and going boating with my family. I am a member of the Sources of Strength, and the Peace, Equity, and Social Justice group at MCM.

Sources of Strength is a strength-based, comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention but impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence. Mental health has been our current focus, as during this pandemic we feel that is becoming a more present issue.

Mental health is your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. During our current times and especially because of the pandemic and state of the world we live in, people have to be watchful of their mental health.


As seen in the Vashon Beachcomber

Students Dig Deep to Spotlight Sources of Strength

Vashon schools been intentional about providing lessons to Vashon kids during COVID.

Peggy Rubens-Ellis

For many, the pandemic has been an accidental teacher.

Vashon’s School District, however, has been intentional about providing lessons to Vashon kids during COVID.

Enter Sources of Strength (SOS). The SOS group at McMurray Middle School consists of four adult leaders, Peggy Rubens-Ellis from VARSA (Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse),Lance Morgan, Kailey Pearce and Yvette Butler, joined by 31 student leaders.

The students decided a contest would motivate their peers to create and submit art that addressed tactics for coping with the pandemic. So, they devised the contest and called it “What Helps Us,” inviting McMurray students to enter their pet photography, art, poetry and music to win prizes and recognition. It turns out, however, that 11 to 14-year-olds are motivated by much more — the process of art, opportunities to talk about their feelings and the love of their pets.


Our goal is to help teens stand up to negative pressures, or influences. The more aware you are of the influences around you, the better prepared you will be to face them, including the pressure to use drugs and alcohol.