LAKE MARY, Fla. – Lake Mary High School just opened a new student lounge, with the goal of providing mental health care to students.
The Ram Student Lounge officially opened last week and provides a safe space for students. Principal Dr. Mickey Reynolds said this is part of the school’s focus on a “whole-child approach” to education.
“Sadly you probably remember we had a suicide on our campus, and it really made us talk to our students and reflect upon what could we do to support them to make sure we are attending to their mental wellness as well as their academic achievements,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds said the idea for the lounge came out of these discussions with students. She explained that LMHS science teacher Stephanie Jordan applied for a grant from the Unbreakable Organization, which was started by a teacher who survived the Parkland shooting.
The Unbreakable Organization provided a classroom make-over and created the lounge, which is staffed by a licensed social worker.
“Sometimes they need a place where they can decompress.” Reynolds said. “Maybe their anxiety is high, they’re feeling a panic attack, something is going on at home that they don’t want to express in front of other students or they’re feeling very emotional, they need a few minutes to calm down,”
Reynolds said work began on the lounge in 2019, because of the pandemic that just opened this year.
She explained one of the challenges was finding a qualified individual to staff the lounge. She was then able to hire a social worker, thanks to a generous donation from the Bernstein family, who donated $150 thousand dollars to staff the lounge for two years.
Reynolds says the social worker acts as the first point of contact for someone who may need more help.
“We just really want kids to hang out in there, to feel comfortable. We’ve got games in there. If they bring their own k cup we’ve got a Keurig in there,” she said. “And then she might have a little conversation with them and decide ‘Ok, I need to call your guidance counselor and find out when you could get in to see your guidance counselor. Or we need to initiate the paperwork for you to get into see a therapist.’ A lot of our students are really struggling post-pandemic. The isolation, the fear, a lot of anxiety has built up and they just need more support as they’re traditioning back face to face.”
Reynolds said this is the first step in removing the stigma associated with mental health topics, and she anticipates this resource will translate into academic results as well.