Everyone experiences stress and emotional upheaval from time to time. When that happens in school, students and staff members alike occasionally need to remove themselves from the fray. But where can they go to detach and reset?
Mental health staff in Robbinsdale Area Schools (Rdale) had an idea, which they have been developing together with the Seven Dreams Education Foundation. As a result, this year the Foundation’s festive Bird Bash event will raise funds for eight new Wellness Centers at the district’s four middle schools: FAIR Crystal, Plymouth, Robbinsdale, and Sandburg. There will be separate spaces for students and staff.
“We all remember middle school,” says Emily Wallace-Jackson, Foundation executive director. There’s a need for calm spaces in all schools, and Rdale staff have recognized the need for more mental health support.
Kerwin Bell, Curriculum and Instruction coordinator, emphasizes, “The COVID-19 pandemic brought historical disruption to public education throughout the U.S. and to students and staff of our schools. The pandemic made mental health needs more visible and accelerated our aspirations to address them and support student and staff well-being.”
Wallace-Jackson and the staff members working with her to develop the Bird Bash-funded project have big plans. Their dream is three-fold: to create beautiful, calming spaces in each school for both students and adults; to staff the student rooms appropriately; and to engage community partners to provide art therapy, meditation, yoga, or other centering techniques.
Their ability to execute those plans will depend in part on how much money is raised at the Bird Bash – and Wallace-Jackson emphasizes that each school will decide what their spaces look like and how to spend the funds.
RMS school psychologist Beth Sowden says: “As humans, our basic needs must be met first. Mental health and coping skills are a critical foundation. Developmentally, for middle school students, if needs like social ties and identity are not being met, then the rest doesn’t matter and learning will be challenging.
“We want to empower students to take time for self-care. For our staff to be effective and teach well,” adds Sowden, “they need to relax and manage stress too. Everyone needs coping strategies. The Wellness Centers for students and staff will provide a place to practice coping strategies and will improve well-being and academic success.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Bird Bash – and the 20th anniversary of the Seven Dreams Education Foundation. The Bird Bash is a delightful opportunity to have fun that benefits Robbinsdale Area Schools. Last year’s event raised more than $60,000 for music in the district, and altogether over its history the Bird Bash has raised over $1.2 million for specific needs within Rdale.
This year’s event takes place on March 4 at the Heritage Center of Brooklyn Center and will feature a three-course dinner, silent and live auctions, dancing and live music. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Foundation’s website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.