Students at George McDougall High School will be spreading a little extra cheer this year thanks to a $300 grant from the Canadian Teachers Federation in support of the Enhanced Support for Mental Health (ESMH) program’s Stockings for Mental Health initiative.
“This is good affirmation that when young people have ideas, they’re supported by other bodies,” said Teresa Fowler, a teacher at George McDougall High School.
The money will be used to buy items to stuff stockings for clients at the Airdrie Food Bank with cookies baked by students, various personal items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and non-gendered toys.
The grant will help to further a grassroots cause that a student in the EMSH program started.
“(Student initatives) aren’t acknowledged as much and these (young people) are our change makers – and for someone from the Canadian Teacher Federation to acknowledge her idea is pretty cool,” Fowler said.
Last year the student, who did not wish to be interviewed or named, and a classmate spent six months volunteering for the Airdrie Food Bank. Inspired by her time there, the student decided to do something special for Christmas.
“When I told her that we had a $300 donation, right away she was thinking of all the things that we can put in the stockings that would benefit young people at Christmas time,” Fowler said.
Fowler said she hopes to involve students outside of the program as well, but currently only has four students committed.
“The idea is to be inclusive and encourage everyone to mingle together,” she said. “Everyone has mental health things they need to work through.”
The divisional program is a response to the increased mental health needs of students in the division who aren’t fitting into a regular classroom. Students are referred by their school psychologist, who then works with a team to make sure the student’s needs are met through the ESMH program.
“I think this work supporting students with mental health needs is incredibly important,” Fowler said. “There’s all this talk about stigma, stigma, stigma – it’s time to move past the idea of stigma and move to actions.”
For community members wanting to get involved, the school will be accepting donations but asks to be contacted prior to drop off at 403-948-5935.