Rochester Adams High School senior Tara Conkling and sophomore Lauren Daugherty share their ideas for social-emotional wellness programs the district implemented this year during the Oct. 7 Rochester Community Schools Board of Education meeting.

Rochester Adams High School senior Tara Conkling and sophomore Lauren Daugherty share their ideas for social-emotional wellness programs the district implemented this year during the Oct. 7 Rochester Community Schools Board of Education meeting.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


RCS implements students’ social-emotional wellness initiatives

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 6, 2019

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Mental health conditions, which affect 1 in 5 Americans, can affect anyone, regardless of gender, race, background or age.

In the past six weeks alone, suicide took the lives of a middle school student and a high school student within the Rochester Community Schools district.

Rochester Adams High School sophomore Lauren Daugherty and senior Tara Conkling, who both serve on their school’s Parent Teacher Student Association’s Social Emotional Wellness Committee, said they have seen firsthand the mental health struggles that today’s youth face.

“High schoolers are stressed because high school is so crazy,” said Daugherty.

“It comes up in daily conversation between students,” Conkling added. “There are lots of pressures and expectations to meet.”

In an effort to help students de-stress at school, Conkling, 17, pushed school officials to allow outdoor time for students at Adams.

“We weren’t allowed to go outside at all,” she said. “I got the idea from noticing that when I went outside, I felt a lot better — just a lot more relaxed. So I thought, let’s bring this to Adams.”

Conkling’s idea was implemented at Adams this year after school officials decided to add picnic tables, purchased by the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, allowing students to eat lunch outside.

“Students have definitely been using it,” Conkling said. “So I think there has been a positive response.”

This year, Conkling is also working with another student to create a mental health display in an empty bookcase in a hallway at Adams.

“The big three we see are anxiety, depression and suicide, so it’s going to revolve around that and how students can notice these things in themselves, or what to do if they see these things in other people,” she said. “(The PTSA) also purchased $400 worth of books to put in the display that revolve around mental health, and we have copies of those books in the school library for students to check out.”

Daugherty, 16, has also made a big impact on the district with one of her ideas.

In an effort to bring awareness to mental health conditions and to help those in need of support, she suggested that the district add crisis hotline numbers to the backs of student ID cards for quick and easy reference.

Her idea was implemented this year, and the phone numbers for OK2Say, (855) 565-2729, and the Oakland County Crisis/Suicide Line, (800) 231-1127, were added to the backs of all IDs for middle school and high school students and all RCS staff.

“I just wanted to make sure that every student has help if they need it. It can be for anxiety, panic, suicide, anything — they can always have help,” Daugherty said. “I have struggled with some mental health and stuff, so it means a lot to me that they are bringing awareness to it and kids can get help.”

School officials said Daugherty will be monitoring the success of the numbers and may implement other changes in the future.

“I’ve obviously had a lot of people telling me the idea is amazing and that I’m making such a big difference, which obviously makes me feel really good. I’m just really excited to see where this can go,” she said.

RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner said cultivating a community of acceptance to remove the stigma of asking for and getting help is critical to the success of the district.

“I’m so proud of both of these young ladies,” Shaner said. “The courage they displayed at the PTSA meeting and across the district in not only sharing their own stories, but wanting to serve other people, is truly amazing and inspiring.”

Shaner said the district initiated a task force last February to ensure the social-emotional wellness of its students and staff. The Social-Emotional Wellness Task Force, led by district administrators and supported by the Board of Education, gathers subject matter experts to evaluate the types of programs currently in place, study organizational best practices, and create and execute a plan to promote positive social-emotional wellness and resilience within the district’s schools, according to Shaner.

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