by Katie Neighbours, Ashley Hall Upper School Counselor

“Creating for students a ‘hub’ dedicated to meeting their (mostly non-academic) needs helps demonstrate both to students and our greater community how much we value these needs and the subsequent services provided to meet those needs. Ashley Hall is more than just a school; it is a community comprised of individuals who genuinely care about students and want them to be the most healthy and happiest versions of themselves. We are already doing so much to address the social-emotional needs of students through our ongoing Wellness programs and initiatives, and the creation of the SLC is simply a demonstration of that priority.

The consistent and continual care for students’ mental health and emotional well-being is always a priority, even more so during the pandemic. I’m not necessarily doing anything differently, other than making sure that even our distance learners know that they can continue to access mental health support even though they are not here on campus. I check-in with students via email and conduct counseling sessions via phone or video conference.

I think one of my biggest challenges has been finding ways to keep students, particularly our senior class, motivated and positive. It is normal and understandable for them to focus on the things that they are missing out on or traditions that they have been looking forward to that are now being reimagined or done differently. I want to help them reframe their disappointment and find the silver linings, but it is challenging. I think the mentality of ‘we’re all in this together’ is helpful; I seek to be an empathetic listener while also encouraging them to lean into their roles as student leaders on this campus.

Regarding silver linings and innovations: I believe this pandemic has forced all of us to reexamine our priorities and values. I know that personally, I have changed some of my focus and have rethought about what really matters to me, both personally and professionally. We also have had to become more creative in terms of our campus traditions and ‘how’ we do things. If we keep our focus on the joy that comes from being together in person as a community, we are reminded that we are resilient and can overcome any obstacle.”

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