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Atlee High School creates space to improve students' mental health

Posted at 10:46 AM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 10:50:34-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlee High School IB teacher Kelly Pace noticed some students were struggling with their mental health.

"They would come to me with all kinds of anxiety, stress, and I wanted to do something about it," Ms. Pace said. "We started by researching the problem with mental health in society today and why it is such a problem and why there's a stigma against it."

She applied for a grant through the Hanover Education Foundation. With the money, she and her students created an outdoor area called The Raider Retreat.

The Raider Retreat
The Raider Retreat

"Obviously, there's a lot of stress that comes with school," student Brian Sherrill said, “but it's nice that our teachers are aware of that and that they're looking out for our best interest."

The Raider Retreat is more than just a hangout.

"On the tables, there are different QR codes for different things," Ms. Pace said. “There are online coloring pages for one of them. There are also relaxation apps and stuff like that so you can use your phone to be at peace a little bit."

"It counts down from two minutes and you can just meditate and really relax and get your mind off of stress you might have," student Liza Owens added.

Ms. Pace has also turned the project into a learning opportunity for other students.

"People don't realize the abundance of mental health problems with teens and how prevalent it is," student Sam Dowda said. “I think the research we did and the presentations we made brought that to light."

"When students are not stressed, they find it easier to learn in class," Ms. Pace said. “They find it easier to concentrate on their schoolwork and I think their performance is better."

Better performance is Building Better Minds.

Building Better Minds with Rob Cardwell airs every Wednesday at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on CBS 6 and is sponsored by Virginia Family Dentistry.

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