By Brandon Yung
Photos by Matt Scholtz
Four South Pasadena High School students took to public forum at a June 14 school board meeting, sharing their concerns about the lack of support for student mental health and suggesting how the district could better address student stress. The students’ suggestions ranged from comprehensive solutions such as hiring extra counseling staff to more easily attainable services such as time allocation for student-to-counselor discussion.
The students highlighted the burgeoning stress that many high schoolers deal with which often goes unaddressed by school faculty. Senior Nate Rudman and junior Amelia Anthony found that their experiences with the counselor support services currently offered by the high school did not provide emotional support, a result of the understaffed counseling department. They decided to approach the school board with their concerns.
The two were joined by junior Cole Cahill, who wrote about the under-staffed counseling department in the May issue of Tiger, and junior Will Hoadley-Brill, president of the SPHS Peer Mediators, a student organization that mainly works to resolve student-to-student issues. Cahill cited a survey conducted for his article, which found that only 9.8% of SPHS students said they would consider seeking emotional support from their counselor. Those who had sought help rated their experience at an average of 4 out of 10.
To fill in the lack of counselor support, the students suggested several changes that could be implemented at the high school. They suggested that the district hire an additional counselor dedicated to the social and emotional needs that often go unaddressed. More realistic approaches included further implementation of Train Your Brain, a program introduced to the district this year to alleviate tense classroom environments, or simply advocating for counselors to dedicate a certain amount of time each week for students to discuss their problems or issues.
Before the mental health advocates spoke, board members were discussing future budgets for the school district. Dave Lubs, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, warned that because of changes in state funding, South Pasadena might have to consider making layoffs for the first time since the financial recession in 2008. However, despite these ominous forewarnings, the students were satisfied with what they had accomplished.
“If they choose to take no action, at least they listened and my job is done,” Anthony said after reading her speech at the meeting.