Questar III BOCES students from New Visions: Pathways in Education pose with their teacher, Ms. Tara Tolan.

The Questar III BOCES New Visions: Pathways in Education hosted a discussion with area superintendents & principals regarding mental health awareness in schools. The class prepared a group presentation as part of their government class, focusing on the need for more mental health awareness for both students and teachers. With it, they included a sample mental health day form which could be customized by the school, which included the school social worker being part of the approval process.

The proposition was for schools to implement two excused absences for mental health days into their policies. Students would have the opportunity to utilize them when needed, and teachers would understand that the student needs a couple extra days to catch up. They also feel if these were incorporated into a schools’ policies, parents would be less likely to force their kids to go to school if they were feeling overwhelmed or overly stressed on a particular day.

Tying the school social worker into the process is an integral part of this policy. With the social worker being aware of the mental health day, they would be better able to check in with the student and see if there is anything they can do to help the student get through their difficult time.

These seniors are a great focus group on how Covid-19 has affected the mental health of students, as they were freshman at the start of the pandemic. They strongly believe that the problem won’t go away anytime soon, and that the pandemic has brought the topic of mental health to the forefront, making more people, students included, open to talking about it.

This is an important topic to these students, not only because they are students themselves, but because they are planning to become educators in the future. While much of the conversation focused on students, they did discuss how it affects teachers as well and the correlation between that and the current teacher shortage. As we prepare for the next generation of teachers to enter our schools, it is a topic these students feel passionate about, and it was evident in their presentation.

Averill Park Superintendent Dr. James Franchini enjoyed the presentation so much, he invited Averill Park students Maryssa Crosier and Jason Strickland onto the “Every Student Every Day Podcast with Superintendent Dr. Franchini”. They were joined by Averill Park counselors and talked more about mental health awareness in schools. Listen to the podcast below!

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