A wellness center dubbed “The Green Room” by Newton High School students had its grand opening on Friday. Named for its green color, the space is about openly addressing mental health issues and it's not hidden, as often concerns of the mind can be, it's located right at the center of the school.
“This space is a place to decompress and get away from this electronic world that we have created,” said principal Jeff Waldron.
It all began when Waldron and the school's coordinator of guidance, Karen Mazur, met with Alex Cable, CEO of Thor Labs in the summer of 2018.
“He's a huge supporter of education throughout the county and asked us, 'What do you need?'” Waldron said.
The answer was a place that could help take away road blocks that were hindering students to thrive and create a place where students could receive one-on-one counseling, group counseling or just go for a break.
Planning began over a year ago and has involved guidance counselors, child study team members, and administrators.
Waldron emphasized that with every successful project, it takes someone to step up and take the ball and run with it. In this case, backed by her co-workers, administration and even harnessing the help of her family, it was Mazur. She put in countless hours to see that this room came to fruition.
“The need for mental health services across all age spectrum's is growing,” Mazur said. “We clearly see that among high school students. We began to research schools in the county who had spaces dedicated to mental health, and began a year long meeting process to access our needs.”
As part of the planning, members of Newton High visited wellness spaces at Sparta High School and High Point High School.”
“The room was open at the beginning of the school year and is still evolving,” said guidance counselor Theresa Hough. “This has been a long time coming and kids are starting to take ownership of the space. It's also being used by teachers as a different environment where they can hold classes. The possibilities are endless.”
The room takes away the sigma surrounding mental health issues and serves as a place of healing.
“Counselors and outside organizations can provide mental health services to our students here,” said social worker Karen Thibault. “It's so nice to students come in here and gravitate to the rocking chair in the corner or the bean bags. We are so fortunate that the community and administration worked to make this happen.”
Students are helping to spread awareness about the Green Room throughout the school advocating its existence and uses.
“I'm glad to help spread the word about this,” said senior Emily Brothman. “Some students don't know about it and it's important that everybody does.”
“It's important to spread the word about this great new addition and welcoming space,” said senior Bridget Fajvan. “I look forward to having some English classes here because it's a great place to sit and read.”
The room will be a place to address mental health issues, but it will also be so much more.
“Say an English teacher’s doing a poetry lesson. Why not bring the class in here, play some soft music, have soft lighting?” Mazur said. “So it’s multi-purpose, but all dedicated to stress reduction and well-being.”
Before the cake cutting, superintendent, Dr. Kenneth Greene, addressed the group.
“This room is real,” he said. “It's a place where our students can receive services. We looked to our students and they told us, 'this is what help looks like and this is what we need.' “We understand that, in our world, the schools can’t provide everything that students need. We’re not equipped to do it all by ourselves.”
Dr. Greene said that by engaging with parents and community partners like Thorlabs and others, “We can get a lot of things done.”
In the months to come, counselors are hoping to expand the use of The Green Room to include auxiliary programs such as yoga and meditation.
“The counseling staff at Newton High School. is extremely grateful to Alex Cable and Thor Labs for recognizing the need for increased mental health services within our district, and to our school administrators for supporting the development of this space and its programs, Mazur said.