A group of junior high students are hoping to combat pandemic boredom after the school bell rings.
Grade 7 student Amara Ison said it’s a welcome change of pace than her typical after-school routine for the past 13 months.
“What I would do when I get home is go on my phone or something …and that’s it,” she said. “Having an extra two and a half hours to do what you want with your friends is really nice. It’s refreshing.”
Students can join in on activities like a cooking class or a game in the gym. They’ve also been completing random acts of kindness for each other by dropping off fresh-baked cookies or writing complimentary messages. Assistant principal Shelley Kofluk said the efforts have had a positive impact on mental health in the school.
“We are helping them become leaders. Whether that’s with positive thoughts, bringing someone’s mood up or getting moving,” she said.
Kofluk said the school has seen a rise in the number of families struggling financially, so the opportunity for students to prepare an after-school snack or meal is doubly beneficial.
The school engaged students in conversations about positive coping strategies when dealing with emotions like anxiety, stress and loneliness.
The kids also filled backpacks with games and activities like Lego, a scavenger hunt and origami instructions for a nearby elementary school.
“It makes their life better by knowing there’s people out in the world who care about them,” said Grade 7 student Whitney Lienza. “People who love seeing them every day.”
Kofluk said they chose to mainly focus on change within the school because they wanted to create a positive and engaging environment for students to look forward to.
“We’re about the only place where they have an opportunity to mix with others. We want to take advantage of that as much as possible, in a safe way. This has allowed us to do that.”
The school received funding for the extra activities from the Dentons Make Your Mark on Poverty, a United Way initiative which provides schools with an opportunity to access grants and take action against poverty in their city.
“I would be so bored at home, not knowing what to do. Now there’s things inside school to do…and it’s way more fun,” Lienza said.