Last month, more than 50 volunteers from The Home Depot Foundation partnered with Westside Future Fund for the annual MLK Day of Service to create wellness and resource rooms at Booker T. Washington High School where Dr. King graduated in 1944.
Tolton Pace, manager of Programs and Partnerships for The Home Depot Foundation, believes these new spaces will help students gain confidence on their pathways to success.
“We hope the wellness room will help students feel empowered in a safe, comfortable place that also offers a sense of dignity,” said Pace. “In this intimate space, students can seek support from teachers and comfortably address any issues that come up on a day-to-day basis in school.”
According to Raquel Hudson, WFF director of Programs, many students at the school lack adequate resources to dress and groom appropriately for school and work. Previously, the school utilized a vacant storage room stocked with used clothing as a makeshift resource room, but found that many students were uncomfortable sifting through disorganized boxes and changing in the school restrooms. Hudson hopes the reinvented space will encourage students who need these resources to use them freely and comfortably.
“The resource room will feel like a boutique with vanity tables, clothing racks and a dressing room,” said Hudson, who led WFF’s MLK Day of Service planning effort. “These kids deserve to have their needs met with dignity, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to help make that possible.”
Located a few doors down from the resource room, the wellness room provides students with a place to decompress, destress and de-escalate. The room is equipped with couches, work tables, and whiteboards where students can work or leave kind messages for fellow students and school staff.
Students are encouraged to use the space at their leisure while under supervision of a school staff member. It is a safe space for students to clear their minds and escape the daily pressures of school, and it will be used for counseling sessions, school program meetings and mental health services. Dr. Erica Clark, student counselor at Booker T. Washington High School, says students immediately started taking advantage of their newest amenity.
“It’s going to be an important resource for us to address the mental health of our students and help them find refuge from the pressure of school and social life for a moment,” said Dr. Clark. “We’ve already started some group sessions, and we partner with Hazel Health to provide virtual mental health counseling. If there’s something we can’t provide them, they can go to this space and speak with a medical professional that can help address their mental health concerns.”
The new spaces are expected to have a lasting positive impact on students for years to come. Lee Hendrickson, Corporate Volunteerism Manager at The Home Depot Foundation, says they can already see the impact of their work coming to fruition.
“Soon after the rooms were complete, Dr. Clark shared a video of students who were excited to thank us for transforming the space,” said Hendrickson. “Their gratitude reminds us how valuable these spaces are to them, and we consider it a privilege to make a positive impact on their lives.”