The Pace Academy community focuses on its newest initiative of Mental Health. Student’s mental health is as important as ever with all of the surrounding pressures inside and outside of school. Pace has advocated for years that students should practice self-care and focus on themselves through many long assemblies, the support of the counseling office and teachers, but there is still more work to do. “We have a lot of wonderful resources at Pace and I try to model their ideas to my students. We do a lot of mediation… trying to work through the hardships in a different way,” says Upper School World Language Teacher Doctor Paula Pontes. The administration declared their initiative for the next five years to improve their support for equipping and helping their students. Their mission is that we will be an exemplary model for innovative, preventative and evidenced-based mental wellness programs that provide students with the tools they need to thrive at Pace Academy and beyond.
“The administration and board wants to approach mental health from a preventative lens rather than an intervention lens,” says Upper School Counselor Ellye Millaway. The upper school has had the counseling office and services for years which has proven helpful to students, but it’s time that students have the tools and resources to try to improve their own mental health. This preventative strategy will be implemented from a young age. “It’s developing a program from pre-first all the way to 12th grade that provides students with what we’re calling their mental health toolbox,” says Millaway. This toolbox will be filled with all sorts of tools that students can use when needed learning from a young age.
This statement is a huge step in the right direction, but it aligns perfectly with Pace’s goal to create prepared, confident citizens of the world. “If we’re really talking about developing prepared competencies of the world, that’s much more about their emotional intelligence, their ability and their resilience,” says Millaway. Pace understands that in order to have a healthy community, everyone including family, teachers and students need to be emotionally healthy. The administration’s focus areas are family partnership and engagement, mental health toolbox, faculty trainin, support and strategic community partnerships. Millaway says, “the majority of the program and work will be actually training teachers so that teachers feel like they have the capacity to have conversations with students in their classrooms around mental health.” Pace’s faculty hopes to launch the program in August 2024, but, for the time being, Pace still has a lot of resources for students to use in the school.
Informing and Nurturing Students Through Education about Alcohol and other Drugs (INSTEAD) is a Pace group of faculty that provides a support group and center of help for students. The faculty members making up the group agreed to be a source of support that students can go to. The program is completely anonymous and confidential, meaning that students can go to volunteer faculty members without having to worry about the information ever getting back to parents or even Head of the Upper School Michael Gannon’s office. Students are encouraged to self report or report friends in need. This process provides students with someone to listen to and advise them without facing disciplinary actions.
The Student Advisory Board (SAB) is another group founded at Pace as a way to advocate for student’s mental health. They work with the school in order to organize programs for students as a way to spread awareness and hopefully ease some of the problems that students might be struggling with.
Pace Academy Student Support (PASS) is a little different from the other programs as it’s a program that supports younger students in the middle and lower school. Upper School Students can get involved and mentor these students in different ways including study strategies, time management, the stress of going into the middle or upper school or more.