Masks & Smiles began after a trip to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pause. Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Hennessey Lustica noticed that throughout the store, she was not able to see the other shopper’s facial expressions. Feeling uneasy and sad as an adult, she became worried about the effects that not seeing smiling faces might have on her own young children, Danny, Carter and Sophia. As a school-based mental health provider and Clinical Assistant Professor, she also worried about the impact of this on the social emotional wellness of elementary-aged students once school reopened.
Masks & Smiles shares the journey of one student’s day at school focused on the expressions he knows are behind his helper’s masks. Knowing that the masks might feel scary and unfamiliar, this story normalizes these feelings while reuniting the main character with his favorite helpers: bus drivers, crossing guards, teachers, administrators, lunch monitors, firefighters, policeman, doctors, nurses, the mailman, grandparents and his family. Each helper’s smile is described behind a unique and colorful mask to help children feel at ease at school.
Dr. Lustica has spent most of her career as a school counselor, which she considers to be the most challenging and rewarding job in the world. She is also licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in New York State, where she works with children, adolescents, and families experiencing anxiety, trauma and depression. She has published works on school-based mental health and presented regionally and nationally on all things school counseling related. Dr. Lustica currently holds two positions: Community Schools Mental Health Grant Director and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Medaille College.
- : Cindy Temple
Posted by: Cindy Temple