In an age where teens face mounting pressure to appear perfect on social media, an Instagram account is helping students at one Long Island high school be themselves and connect with their classmates in the process.

Jonathan Chiaramonte, a peer education teacher at Sachem North High School, started the Humans of Sachem North Instagram account two and a half years ago to help teens express themselves and bring students together.

The ongoing project showcases photographed portraits of students and excerpts from interviews with them, giving some of the school’s more than 2,200 teens a platform to “broadcast their thoughts,” Chiaramonte said.

The project is inspired by Humans of New York, a popular blog that features vignettes gleaned from people-on-the-street interviews conducted throughout the city.

“It lets students share their own story and allows other people to step into their shoes,” said Meghan Tozza, now 19, who was featured on the account as a junior.

Meghan Tozza, 19, was featured on the Instagram account, which is the product of a peer education class at Sachem North High School. Photo Credit: Humans of Sachem North

She used the opportunity to reveal her struggle with anorexia, which she developed after being bullied about her weight in middle school. She shed about 30 pounds in just two months during her freshman year at Sachem North.

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Tozza, who later recovered through therapy and working with a nutritionist, said anorexia can be isolating and difficult to talk about.

“I wanted to put myself out there for other people in the school who might be going through the same thing,” she said.

Tozza said she was “amazed by the support” from peers. The post was liked more than 300 times, and two younger students also struggling with eating disorders thanked her for sharing her story.

Juniors and seniors in Chiaramonte’s peer education class must interview students they haven’t met and take their portraits. These mini-profiles are posted on Instagram and Facebook accounts, which are collectively followed by nearly 2,000 social media users.

The Instagram account Humans of Sachem North gives students a chance to tell their own stories. Jonathan Chiaramonte, a peer education teacher at the school, said he started the account to let students "broadcast their thoughts." Photo Credit: Instagram / Humans of Sachem North High School

Chiaramonte says he sees so many of his students agonize over how they present themselves on social media, and he hopes the account can help teens stop scrutinizing themselves.

“I want to show them that you can be real and you can be honest, and the response is going to be just as positive as if you would have posted a photo of yourself posing while on vacation,” he said.

The more than 240 portraits on the account vary widely in subject and tone, but Chiaramonte hopes they will help students find some common ground.

In many of the posts, students discuss their aspirations — plans to become nurses or teachers or to join the military. In others, students air their insecurities.

“In seventh and eighth grade I was depressed for not being able to be myself,” one teen said in a post. “I felt trapped. I got talked into starting the school track team which allowed me to come out of my shell.”

Meghan Tozza, 19, was featured on the Instagram account, which is the product of a peer education class at Sachem North High School. Photo Credit: Humans of Sachem North

Chris Kearney, a school psychologist at Sachem North, said many of his students deal with self image issues and that he sees the project as a way to help overcome that.

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“In high school you’re trying to find an identity as you’re simultaneously growing and changing and dealing with hormones and transitions. I see a lot of students use social media to create an identity. They try and control and change the way they look or are perceived,” he said. “This is such a great project because being real and being genuine is overall better for their social and emotional health.”

Kearney said he’s spoken with a few students who have spoken positively about Humans of Sachem, including one teen who said the project “gave him a voice.”

In Emily Leath’s portrait on the account, she proudly holds up 10 inches of her long brown hair, which had been sheared off her head moments earlier for a cancer fundraiser.

She posed for the picture when she was at her most vulnerable, Leath, 18, said. Her father lost his battle with cancer soon after she appeared on the Instagram account, but Leath said supportive comments on the post helped her through a difficult time.

The Instagram account Humans of Sachem North gives students a chance to tell their own stories. Jonathan Chiaramonte, a peer education teacher at the school, said he started the account to let students "broadcast their thoughts." Photo Credit: Instagram / Humans of Sachem North High School

“I was never one of the popular kids at school, but all the support I got was amazing,” Leath said.