Officials at Massena Central School District are adding to their pool of resources for helping students deal with difficult times.

Like many other districts, Massena Central had to navigate its way through the novel coronavirus pandemic while reopening its facilities this academic year. Authorities created a social/emotional subcommittee to discuss issues pertaining to the needs of students and staffers.

One idea the subcommittee came up with was introducing the practice of mindfulness. Members believed this could help alleviate some anxiety and help students maintain a more positive attitude.

“Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress,” according to a story published Sunday by the Watertown Daily Times. “Community Schools Director Kristin Colarusso-Martin had applied for a grant that would allow them to partner with the Akwesasne Holistic Life Foundation to bring mindfulness to students. She said that high school students had been polled about their concerns and what they would like to learn more about.”

Superintendent Patrick Brady said the district received a $25,000 grant through the American Federation of Teachers. This money will help Massena Central partner with the Akwesasne chapter of the Holistic Life Foundation. The district will set up “mindfulness rooms in some of the schools where students and staff can go to obtain the tools to handle their emotions,” the article reported.

“The rooms will be staffed by trained practitioners from the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory who have been involved with the mindfulness initiative for several years,” Mr. Brady was quoted as saying in the story. “The practitioners will also push into classrooms of teachers who are interested in having these strategies taught in their classrooms.”

Founded in Baltimore in 2001, the Holistic Life Foundation “has provided yoga and mindfulness education for underserved residents in the Baltimore community and beyond. Through a comprehensive approach which helps children develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care, HLF demonstrates deep commitment to learning, community, and stewardship of the environment,” according to information on the group’s website.

Mr. Brady also said the district is collaborating with the state Office of Mental Health and the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Students will be able to participate in teletherapy appointments at the school. In addition, district officials hope to create a program with two local hospitals “to provide virtual school-based health centers for mental health and child wellness examinations,” the article reported.

Massena Central also is working with Safe Harbor and the St. Lawrence County Youth Advocate Program. This initiative will allow authorities to review the attendance, truancy and academic performance of at-risk students in grades five through eight.

Some of these ideas may sound a little out there. We encourage officials to closely monitor these programs to ensure they’re being effective at helping students and staffers handle their emotions in a productive manner.

But overall, it’s good that Massena Central School District is identifying ways to help members of the school community with mental health issues. We need to continue striving to remove the stigma of receiving help in this area.

Tending to our mental health should become as routine as a physical or dental checkup. We could all use guidance from mental hygiene professionals from time to time, and Massena Central is on the right track with its initiatives.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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