Valley High School students learn to cope with stress in 'mindfulness room'

Valley High students in South Jordan meditate in the school's 'mindfulness room.' (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) - A soothing and relaxing atmosphere, a place to unwind and meditate: A perfect place for high school students? Yes. That’s what’s happening inside room 109 at Valley High in South Jordan, which was once a computer room.

It's now a room where a different kind of learning is taking place; one that is about healing the soul in hopes of educating the mind. It's called the “mindfulness room.” This year, the room has been opened to help students deal with their trouble world.

“There are so many things that society wants you to do,” said student Wyatt Wright to 2News. “[Here] I go elsewhere to my happy place.”

“I’m a real negative person sometimes,” said student Nina Peterson. "Just having that moment where I can be OK I can breathe, everything's fine."

"I've had a rough past,” said student William Kemp. "Taking a pause and focusing on everything really helps."

In fact, most of the 500 students at Valley High, an alternative school, come with plenty of baggage.

Just ask School Counselor McKinley Withers.

"Deaths of parents, parents in prison, drug addiction throughout the whole family, homelessness," he said.

When a student is dealing with these kinds of issues, or any stress-related problems at home, or work, or among friends, the ability to learn can be very challenging.

"The reason they are not learning isn't because they are dumb or unmotivated; the reason is they are overwhelmed,” said Withers. "We just expect them to come through the door and forget all their problems and that's not happening."

"It sets you in a positive mood,” said Valley High Principal Sharon Jensen. "This is the cutting edge of education to give our students a tool to maybe unplug and distress and just learn to focus on their learning."

Valley High is not alone in its thinking. Dr. Olin Levitt the school psychologist at West Jordan Middle school has turned his office into a yoga studio to help stressed out kids cope.

"You'd like to at least give them the opportunity to put a new tool in their tool box, and that's what we offer with this,” said Dr. Levitt to 2News.

"I think that really helps when you get the good energy and just download it into your body,” said Mercedes Zeitman, West Jordan Middle school student.

And over at Terra Linda Elementary in West Jordan they've started what is called a “Drumtastic” program. This program allows kids to drum on huge inflatable exercise balls to get their minds firing again.

"They are more focused in the classroom and can perform better in any task, any subject,” said Principal Karen Gorringe.

Holly Bell, a counselor for the Jordan School District, says a shocking one in five students across the nation have been diagnosed or deal with a mental illness.

"Mainly we are seeing anxiety and depression,” said Bell. "We are trying to inform ourselves of how to address those needs and address the issues that are very real in our district in our state in the nation."

And right now, the Jordan School District is seeing great results in a variety of mind-stimulating activities to help kids unplug and breath again.

"These are methods that are showing they are being effective in schools in helping kids to stay grounded and center themselves throughout the day,” said Bell.

“In my opinion,” Withers added. ”It's a start and it's a start in the right direction"

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