Student Spotlight: Zoe Titus and the Sailboat Project

The Sailboat Projects logo is a metaphor for mental health. The different layers of the sail categorize the levels of counseling students may require. (published with permission from Zoe Titus)

The Sailboat Project’s logo is a metaphor for mental health. The different layers of the sail categorize the levels of counseling students may require. (published with permission from Zoe Titus)

Nicole Felici, Editor in Chief

The Sailboat Project is a student-led organization founded by Hart High School senior Zoe Titus over the summer of 2020. Titus began the project with the goal to improve district-wide mental health resources in light of recent events in the Hart District. Through letters to the school board, club meetings, social media and more, the Sailboat Project is establishing their position as a bridge of accessibility between students and mental health resources provided by the district. 

The 2019-2020 school year was one filled with many unpredictable events. Over the last several months, Titus has considered how the shooting at Saugus High School, numerous fires, the and COVID-19 pandemic have been extremely traumatic for Hart District students. This realization inspired her to look into the mental health resources that are offered by the Hart District. Titus quickly noticed that while the district has ways for students to be open about their mental health and receive help, not many students know about these resources or how to obtain them. 

“We are working on taking the 50 therapists that the district already has hired and spreading awareness to students that these resources are here…We’re working on making that process [of getting in touch with a therapist] much simpler and more casual so that every student is able to just say once that they need help,” said Titus.

So, after gathering a few friends who were also interested in tackling this problem, Titus launched the Sailboat Project as its Project Manager. Before getting in contact with any administration, the organization focused on developing what they call the “tier system,” which is their plan on how to improve the way mental health is addressed in the district. The various tiers are mental health resources, including peer counselors, college interns and licensed therapists. These tiers form a system that allows students to normalize the conversation of mental health by getting involved as peer counselors while still making sure that high-risk students are receiving the help they seek from professionals. The tier system is also where the Sailboat Project derives its name from, as the tiers form an image in the shape of a sailboat. 

As these ideas began to coalesce, Titus decided to have the team draft letters to the Hart District to air their concerns and ideas. Titus and project members Maddie Jensen (Outreach Captain) and Madison Woo (Research Captain) submitted letters in hopes that they would be read at a board meeting. Titus’ letter was chosen to be read aloud in the meeting, which began the project’s relationship with the district.  

“We just wanted to explain how the district is not focusing on mental health. I mean, mental health is just as important as physical health, especially during quarantine. We wanted to open their eyes and have them hear it from our point of view as students,” said Jensen.

Since the reading of Titus’ letter, the Sailboat Project has been working closely with the Hart District. Project members have been in virtual meetings with the district to discuss what steps the project and the district can take to make a difference. Also, they have been in close contact with the Wellness Center at Hart High School, working alongside Mrs. Fairborne, Mrs. Mohsen and Mr. d’Autremont to improve the resources offered on Hart campus. 

“Our group is very passionate about mental health, and we understand that everyone is suffering right now. Like even straight A students, their grades have dropped slightly as their mental health has dropped as well,” Titus said.

As the word continues to spread, many Hart students have become interested in this movement. Consequently, the membership of the Sailboat Project has steadily increased. The full staff includes various departments, namely research managers, outreach managers, solutions managers and project supporters. Each of these departments has an appointed “Sailboat Captain” who heads the tasks and leads the members of their respective categories. 

With support from students and the district, the Sailboat Project is not slowing down anytime soon. They are planning on partnering with Bring Change 2 Mind, an organization founded by actress Glenn Close. This partnership will provide the project with more resources to accomplish their goals. 

As Titus is a senior this year, she will be leaving the Sailboat Project in the hands of younger members next year. Although Titus will be moving on to adult life, she hopes that the Sailboat Project continues to grow and thrive when the other seniors and she are gone.

“I really want students to continue raising their voices. [This movement] can’t just be one club at Hart. It has to be Hart students constantly speaking to members of the district on how to improve and how to make it more student-friendly because ultimately the district is serving the students,” Titus said. 

If Hart students are interested in getting in contact with the Sailboat Project, they can visit their weekly meetings on Wednesdays during lunch. As these meetings are currently virtual, students can find the information on how to attend on the Sailboat Project’s Instagram page, @hartsailboat_project. Students can also visit their website to learn more about the organization.