COLORADO SPRINGS — As school districts continue to find ways to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, two Chinook Trail Middle School students are stepping up to help improve the mental health of their peers.
As part of their Silver Award Project for Girl Scouts Colorado, Kaitlin S. and Grace H. are creating a "safe space" for students to go when they're feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
"It's a place where you can go to calm your nerves, get a break from all of the stressfulness, and calm down," said Kaitlin.
"I think it might help adults want to bring their kids here, especially if they know their children are struggling with depression or anxiety. Maybe they just went through a huge family issue, they might be excited to know there's something to help their students cope with being at school," said Grace.
Kaitlin had come up with the idea after her battle with depression.
"After going to three different schools in three years, and three people very close to me dying, I was diagnosed with depression," said Kaitlin. "After getting over that, I realized that if there was a room like this, it would have helped me."
After bringing the idea to her mother, Kit, she asked her friend Grace to be a part of the project. The girls then approached Principal Tom Andrew and collaborated on how to make it happen.
"They showed us which room we were doing it in, they let us do it during COVID-19," said Kaitlin.
"We wanted to make sure no one was taking advantage of the room. Anyone could say I'm sad and get a break from a class. Anyone could do that and have fun for ten minutes so we wanted to make sure get approval from the counselors," said Grace.
The "Roots and Wings" room will be filled with calming devices to help students relax. To figure out the most beneficial items, they consulted with the school counselor and mental health professionals.
"Such as coloring books, pencils, and diffuser with essential oils. They said to hit all of these senses so we'll also have bottles of water, mints, a lava lamp, and books. Just to hit all of the senses to create a safe space," said Kit.
With the "safe space," students will have to follow certain rules to use it. They'll have to get a pass from the counselor and only one will be allowed in at a time.
"Anytime a student is struggling and needs some kind of support, we always encourage them to come down to the counseling center and meet with a counselor. The counselor will identify when a student would benefit from the use of the calming room. They would walk them down and give them in that room to decompress, relax, and distress," said Andrew.
While the girls started the project before COVID-19, they've seen an increased need during the pandemic. Their parents are making sure the room is sustained well after they leave middle school.
"The counselors are going to be able to apply for grants through the PTSA and we've made sure to put enough items on the Amazon wishlist to get through the next couple of years," said Tracey.
The girls hope parents and students find comfort in having another mental health resource available.
"It doesn't really matter what you need it for, as long as it's there to help you," said Kaitlin.
They hope to have it complete and ready to go after spring break.
For those interested in helping with the project, the girls still need a few more items. They've created an Amazon Wishlist called, "Roots and Wings GS Silver Award Project" full of books, games, and other supplies.