Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
by: Dr. Brett Foster, School Counselor, Academy Prep Center of Lakeland (Summer 2022)
Success stories can come in many different shapes and sizes. Usually, they involve someone who has overcome tremendous odds and obstacles, in order to achieve success in life. This particular success story is a little different. It concerns two communities (rather than an individual), Peace River Center and Academy Prep Center of Lakeland.
At the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, it became increasingly apparent to me as a School Counselor, that many families and students in our community were experiencing very serious and ongoing hardships. We had students who lost close relatives to Covid. Even worse, we had students who lost their parents to Covid. We had families that were homeless due to financial stress. And we had students who were absolutely filled with all the anxiety and angst that permeates nearly every nook and cranny of our world right now. For many, the anxiety was paralyzing.
It was during this time that I contacted Peace River, and that’s when things started to change. After formal introductions and several meetings, together, we came up with a plan of action. Our plan was simple, we would have licensed mental health counselors (just like we had teachers, textbooks, and school supplies) on our campus on a weekly basis, to meet the spiritual, emotional, and mental health needs of our students and their families. I sent out a notice to our families informing them of our new partnership with Peace River. I made announcements at school so that our students knew that mental health counseling was available for them. And our faculty was trained to recognize mental health warning signs (trauma, triggers, etc.), so they could effectively refer students.
The partnership between Peace River Center and Academy Prep has been a fountain of hope, renewal, and healing since day one.
We had one student who literally couldn’t walk into a classroom without hysterically crying because of anxiety. She is now a leader in her class and has a 3.12 GPA. We had two students who couldn’t make it through a single school day without seeing the school nurse for headaches and stomach aches, due to anxiety. Today, both of these students have terrific attendance records and their grades have improved immensely. We had two students dealing with serious issues involving self-harm, neglect, and abuse. Both of these students are now leaders in their respective classrooms, often helping others deal with stress. And we had another student who was being overtaken by grief she was experiencing because of the loss of a family member. That student is now a role model for how to deal with loss and grief and she often helps others who are struggling.
While these stories are about individuals, their improved mental health, collectively, has also had a huge impact on our overall campus. We have less absences and tardies; we have fewer discipline issues; and we have genuine and authentic peer-to-peer support within our student-body, primarily coming from the students who see Peace River counselors. Our campus is a different campus with the presence of Peace River.
There is no doubt….we live in a broken world. And the global pandemic, ongoing civil unrest, and mounting financial pressure that have sprung up around our students has, at times, completely overwhelmed them. As Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack, a crack in everything.” But thanks be to God, it has been through these cracks that the light of love and life has shown through. Peace River is now an integral part of the Academy Prep culture, and our students are growing and maturing with increased stability, academic success, and sound mental health. By destigmatizing the desire for improved mental health, our community is now a beacon of hope for others, and we’re as excited as we can possibly be about the 2022-2023 academic year! Thank you Peace River!