A steaming cup of comfort

Jan. 2, 2017, 2:35 p.m. | By Zoe Friedman | 7 years, 3 months ago

Blair's CUPS Club is the ultimate community service

It's Friday. Juniors Michael Yin, Sabrina Li, and Lydia Wang laugh in front of the whiteboard, their shadows covering the expo marker-written words, "7 cups!" People noisily shuffle into the room, take seats, and unzip their lunchboxes; others crowd around the Chromebook cart and the desk laden with cookies and snacks. Slowly, everyone sits down and opens their laptops. The sound of keyboard clicking replaces the chatter.

Regular members of the Cups Club pose during a weekly meeting. Left to right: Nicholas del Vecchio, Brennan Winer, Alice Zhang, Enya Wang, Sabrina Li, Gianna Jade del Vecchio, and Michael Yin. Photo courtesy of Catherine Horowitz.

The Cups club is a student-run club that works in conjunction with 7 Cups of Tea, an organization that connects trained listeners, therapists and counselors online with people who need to talk to someone. Every Friday during sixth period lunch, the members of Cups club act as student-listeners, holding online text-based conversations with teenagers and adults across the globe through 7 Cups.

People go to the 7 Cups website for a variety of reasons – among them: relationship difficulties, stress or depression – seeking someone who will listen to their feelings and offer support. The Cups club allows members to hone their communication skills with real people who need comfort. Members offer advice to people or even identify the positive aspects of a negative situation.

Many members find that supporting people who are struggling with life situations is fulfilling experience. "Talking to people and eventually making them feel better makes me very happy," sophomore Alice Varughese says. For many, the main highlight of the Cups club is being able to make a difference in a person's life.

Halfway through the club meeting, sophomore Courtney Wilson looks up from her laptop, having just finished a text-based conversation with someone who feels lonely. For Courtney, the sense of empowerment after listening to people on the 7 Cups website is one attraction of the club. "Even if I didn't change someone's life I made their day at least a little bit more bearable," Wilson says.

During meetings, the club members also participate in training to learn how to be effective listeners and offer support. Listening and supporting someone in a time of need is easier said than accomplished. "A common situation is that someone is in an awkward or sensitive situation and wants to talk about it with a listener who will not judge," Wang says. In order to be prepared to handle these circumstances, the Cups club utilizes realistic hypothetical situations as practice.

Towards the end of each meeting, Yin, Li and Wang lead a debriefing session of the club's conversations. One member shares that he comforted someone who is dealing with a relationship dilemma. Other members pipe in and voice how they might comfort someone in that situation, such as acknowledging that person's struggles and pointing to the positive.

Members of the Cups club eat lunch while they give free therapy through the 7 Cups website. Photo courtesy of Catherine Horowitz.

The Cups club was founded by juniors Michael Yin, Sabrina Li and Lydia Wang, who now serve as club President, Vice President of Operations and Vice President of Communications, respectively. The students run the club, while government teacher Peter Cirincione is there if they need anything. Although he is the club sponsor, Cirincione tries to play a minimal role in the club leadership so that the student-leaders have free-range. "I very much want to help students take action and shape the world around them. The students run the club - I'm just there as an adult presence," Cirincione says.

The students started the club in order to help people by means of a non-traditional community service. "The club's goals are really important to us personally. We knew we wanted to form a club structured around helping people through the website," Li says. Cups club plans to expand to fifth lunch in the coming semester.

Cups club is always interested in new members! Contact Michael Yin, Sabrina Li or Lydia Wang at mbhscups@gmail.com for more information.
Cups club meets every Friday in room 216 during sixth period lunch.

Tags: Peter Cirincione 7 Cups of Tea Alice Varughese Courtney Wilson Cups club Lydia Wang Michael Yin Nicolas del Vecchio Sabrina Li

Zoe Friedman. Zoë Friedman is a junior at Montgomery Blair HS. She loves running XC and track, exercising, writing, cooking, marketing and creating business ideas. She's self-published two cookbooks since her freshman year. In her free time, she watches baseball and makes and packages her own energy … More »

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