GOSHEN — The Post gives youths somewhere to go after school, but the staff hope to build an oasis to give them a quiet place to go once they’re there.
The after-school program in a former post office at 301 E. Lincoln Ave. is raising money to renovate one of its rooms into a calming spot, to give students ways to get away from stress and build coping skills. They hope to use it to add things like art, journaling and yoga to the basketball, weightlifting, cafe and study help that they already offer.
“One of the things we run into here is that our kids can learn academic skills but not necessarily how to manage their emotions or interpersonal relationships,” said Whitney Roach, director of development. “Kids get upset, they get wound up, and they don’t know how to deal with it. Or they have home situations and don’t know how to navigate those, in addition to the stresses that come from just being a teen.”
Roach, who has a background in mental health and therapy, said it’s an idea she saw often working in public schools for the past five years. She pictures a combination of one of those relaxation spaces, for young people in need of calming or who have sensory issues, with a classroom to teach emotional regulation skills.
She thought of bringing it to her current job after surveying some of the 20 to 30 youths who show up in the evening and finding that many experience enough issues at home to be put at risk for depression, anxiety or other health issues. That includes more than 80 percent coming from divorced homes, 59 percent seeing a household member go to prison and 44 percent who have a household member who abuses drugs or alcohol, she said.
“A lot of research shows that a lot of things students go through impact their future, their mental and physical health,” she said. “We’re fighting their past, in a way.”
They already began renovating a room on the main floor, just off the basketball court, starting with some neutral gray paint over the bright red that covered the brick walls. The location lets the staff keep an eye on it at all times.
To help furnish the room, they started a campaign at gofundme.com with an initial goal of $500. They met the goal after about a month, and may revise it to increase the goal and also show what each contribution amount could pay for.
The amount of money they raise will determine what they’re able to fill it with, and how far past the list of needs they can go into a list of wants. That would include pricier things like a sand table or weighted blankets.
Roach said once the students understand what the room is for and how they can benefit from it, they’ll latch on to the idea.
“It’s one of those things where kids don’t realize they need it till they have it,” she said.
Find the fundraiser online at gofundme.com/thepostcalmingroom.