After the devastating fire destroyed nearly 1,100 homes, mental health is top of mind at schools right now.
FOX31’s Ashley Ryan talked with high school students who are thankful for a new and unique resource.
“Fires happen all the time, so it was not a big deal,” said senior Tyler Rock. “Turn on the news, the national news, and there are houses up in flames in Louisville, Colorado.”
The most destructive fire in state history was sweeping through Boulder County, swallowing thousands of homes and businesses in its path.
Most of the homes in the neighborhoods were destroyed and reduced to rubble, sitting just across the street from Monarch High School. A lot of the students said they didn’t know if they would have a school to come back to.
“The first day coming back on the school bus, everyone was hanging on the windows. I mean, this was probably the first time a lot of us have seen the damage in our towns and no one was talking,” said sophomore Elijah Shigeta.
Silence. Something school counselor Greg McDonald is trying to break at the new wellness center where students can “breathe, relax and unwind. “
“There’s not many around. When I was doing research I found maybe some in California and the one in Fort Collins,” said McDonald.
Thanks to the foundation Impact on Education, the wellness center, with plush seating, calming aroma, and zen lighting, is brewing more than tea. It’s brewing conversations.
“This year, having a safe place to go and someone to talk to who I trust, it’s really made an impact,” said Shigeta.
The foundation funded mental health advocates at seven Boulder Valley Schools where one in 10 lost everything in the flames.
“It was just crazy seeing how different people handled the situation because I pushed all of it away and other people were crying just for like days,” said freshman Noah Slade.
Five hundred and fifty kids have walked through this door, that’s about 35% of the student body.
“When I started, I thought this would be a place where we might have a couple of kids come in here and there. I see 50 to 60 kids a day,” said McDonald.
Those numbers could climb this month as students struggle with stress, anxiety and PTSD.
“Snow is bringing back memories and the wind and just the unknowing of where people are,” said McDonald.
Two hundred students at Monarch High lost their homes.
“It definitely helped knowing other people that lost their homes too, as cruel as that sounds, it was nice having other people and that I wasn’t alone,” said Slade.
While charred grass has turned green and ruins are being rebuilt, the memories will forever linger.
“I think we’re going to be impacted for years to come,” said McDonald.
Impact on Education said it’s working to raise a million dollars to keep the wellness center open and expand it to four other high schools in the district.