New brain health “retreat rooms” at Dubuque public high schools to help students deal with overcoming stress and anxiety

Students at Dubuque's two public high schools now have access to brain health "retreat rooms", spaces they can visit to calm down and self-regulate.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 8:15 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Starting Tuesday, students at Dubuque’s two public high schools will have a designated room available to take care of their brain health.

Lee Kolker, principal at Hempstead High School, said students’ stress and anxiety are “as high as we have ever seen it” because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said that is, in part, due to the many changes that have come with the pandemic.

”Starting back in March of 2020 when students went home for the rest of that year and then doing some hybrid learning here in Dubuque the next year, where students were here every other day, and then we got back into some full-time learning to finish the year,” Kolker remembered.

Kolker added staff have noticed a lot more students visiting their counselors throughout the day. He said that prompted them to look at how they could expand the opportunities for students to treat their brain health.

And that is how the brain health retreat rooms were born.

”Brain health is so important and that is why this room is so important for our students because it gives them a calm place to come so that they can just find a place to sit down, relax, self-regulate,” Kari Kuhle, the school’s brain health liaison, explained.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of U.S. students report feeling stressed sometimes or often. Staff at Dubuque schools hope these rooms will avoid those numbers in their schools.

The rooms, funded by the Brain Health Now nonprofit, will provide students with relaxing activities, like journaling and painting. Students can also enjoy snacks provided by Project Rooted and learn about breathing techniques. Aside from that, Hempstead students will get to work one-on-one with Kuhle, while Dubuque Senior students will do the same with their brain health liaison.

“During that time I will also be coming around each student and I will be helping them with strategies that they can work on to process through their emotions and help work through their struggles so that they can get back to class and back to learning,” Kuhle mentioned.

Amy Unmacht, executive director with the Foundation for Dubuque Public Schools, explained the planning process began with discussions last spring among the Dubuque Community School District, the Foundation for Dubuque Public Schools, and Debi and Andy Butler with Brain Health Now. She added Lerdahl, Gigantic Design Co., 100 Women Who Care, Dubuque County Supervisors, Project Rooted, and Mindful Minutes for Schools also provided resources.

Even though Tuesday was only the first day the rooms were available to students, Unmacht said the goal is to secure additional funding to open retreat rooms in Dubuque’s public middle schools as well.

Copyright 2022 KCRG. All rights reserved.