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The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

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Oasis Room Provides Resources For Mental Health

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This story was originally published in the October Issue of the 2023-2024 school year.

With the youth mental health epidemic swinging in full force throughout America, Venice’s Peer Mediation/Creative Writing class looks to develop alternative resources for students. 

One of the ways the class has tried to make up for student mental health challenges is a space on campus in an unassuming classroom upstairs in Cunningham. It’s called The Oasis Room, and it sets out to create a student-led supportive space to discuss current stresses, uplifting stories, and just about anything students can create conversations about. 

The class created The Oasis Room last year, where students now host discussion circles and discuss topics decided by a member of the class. It can be as deep or light-hearted as feels fit for the day. 

According to English teacher Hazel Kight-Witham, who leads the class, “the intention is to create a peer support program to work through conflicts together, without involving an adult.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic and online schooling, it was brought to the attention of Kight-Witham that while peer support was offered to students’ physical well-being, mental health was being disregarded. Kight-Witham had read about schools developing peer mediation programs and  used the inspiration to create the Oasis Room.

Many kids find it difficult to open up about their mental health to adults as they may feel that their feelings are not commonly understood. The students will be trained in peer mediation in January, and will be certified peer mediators going forward, allowing for one on one, therapy-style meetings. 

I was given the opportunity to sit in on one of the circles hosted in the Oasis Room. The meeting starts with any one of the students reading out the core values of the circle: Speak from the heart, listen from the heart, be spontaneous, and be lean (to be mindful of others’ time). The same student then rings a bell and the circle begins. 

I was genuinely blown away by the willingness of students to participate in the circle. As a teenager myself, I know firsthand that talking about my experiences in front of a group of people can be hard enough. But talking about mental health is even harder. 

There has been a foundation laid within the class that has made all of the students feel comfortable enough to be honest and not to be judged by their classmates. 

The room is also used for school intervention days, in which students a part of the class run circles for other students at Venice and practice the skills they’ve learned. 

With the world plagued with mental health issues, clearly something within the system isn’t working. Kight-Witham and the Oasis Room explore whether peer to peer connection could offer another support system within the rickety minds of high schoolers. 

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