“It’s okay not to be okay.”

Rhode Island Director of Veterans Affairs Kasim Yarn speaks to the school community on mental health, race, and more

Credit: Rhode Island Office of Veterans Affairs.

WARWICK, RI (March 1, 2019) – As the Hendricken community gathered together on Friday morning to listen to the words of Navy Lieutenant Commander Kasim Yarn, Rhode Island’s first Director of Veterans Affairs, all in McNally Gymnasium repeated the same phrase aloud.

“It’s okay not to be okay.”

Director Yarn, a Navy veteran who has dedicated himself to serving others, particularly those men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forced, addressed the Hendricken community with this reminder early and often in his presentation, which discussed issues challenging students and communities across the state, country, and globe.

Throughout the open forum he held with students, faculty, and staff, Director Yarn discussed topics such as mental health, suicide, addiction, race, and gender. After sharing his experiences with racial discrimination growing up in Mississippi, his time as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, his conversion to Catholicism, and his experience in veterans’ affairs, Yarn fielded questions directly from students on issues important to them.

“During the forum, students very honestly expressed that some had lost trust in our school,” said Mr. Mark DeCiccio ’03, Principal. “My response to them, and my promise to all in our community, is that I will always keep our students’ best interest at heart when making decisions for our communinty. Director Yarn’s presentation created a space for students to openly, honestly, and candidly express themselves and ask questions about the issues they’re facing without fear of stigma, deterrence, or consequence. And for that support, we’re truly grateful.”

“Our Hendricken men asked pertinent and insightful questions, and responded with a standing ovation several times,” said Fr. Robert Marciano ’75, KHS, President. “Rhode Island is blessed to have him as part of Governor Raimondo’s team, and we are blessed to have him now as part of the Hendricken family. Our prayers are for him, his family, his important work, and the brave men and women who have served and now serve this great nation in uniform.”

Director Yarn continually preached that faith has played an important role in his life’s work, and in the lives of those veterans he serves. When asked about how he helped those who might be struggling or hurting, Yarn noted that it was through daily prayer and hard work that he overcame adversity.

“Character means doing right, even when the lights are off,” said Director Yarn. “That means getting up every morning and making your bed. That means being a sounding board for our peers. That means doing for others more than you do for yourself.”

Ultimately, Yarn reminded students that love and kindness are far stronger than hate. He closed by encouraging students to regularly check-in on each other, reflect on themselves daily, and strive to be better each day.

“We are ever grateful that Director Yarn took the time out of his busy schedule to share his journey with us,” said Mr. Michael Monahan ’98, Director of Student Activities. “His dynamic and engaging message of living a life based on faith, prayer, and service as well as looking out for one another’s well-being resonated with our school community, especially our students.”

Students, faculty, staff, and members of our community are reminded that there are several resources available on campus for those who might need help, support, or simply someone to talk to.

Fr. Christopher Murphy
401.739.3450, ext. 149
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Campus Ministry
Mr. Thomas Gambardella ’76, Director
401.739.3450, ext. 124
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Counseling Services
Mrs. Nancy Rocha, Director
401.739.3450, ext. 148
Click to email

School Social Worker
Mrs. Laura Zaniol, LICSW
401.739.3450, ext. 176
Click to email