Students in the LIT Program Meet with Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker to Discuss Mental Health
ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker held a roundtable discussion with Roseville Area High School (RAHS) students and district leaders to discuss student mental health. The conversation was in response to statewide results from the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, which show that more Minnesota students than ever report having long-term mental health, behavioral or emotional problems.
"Our students are talking to us and we must listen," said Ricker. "The results of the Minnesota Student Survey show a number of concerning pieces of data, including student vaping and declines in mental health. No matter what is happening in students' lives outside of school, we must make sure that they feel supported, safe, and welcomed when they're in the classroom so they can succeed academically."
The students were coaches in Leaders in Training (LIT), a unique leadership and mentoring out-of-school program sponsored by Roseville Community Education and led by Jamey Johnson, a youth leadership specialist. The scholars reacted to the statewide findings, answered questions about their experiences in school, and offered frank insight on how state and district leaders can improve school climate to address some of the issues raised.
Some of the observations from students included:
- "It’s pretty simple. People wonder why students aren’t doing well in school. [It's] because they don't feel like anyone hears and loves them."
- "We need to take advantage of mental health counselors. We have counselors to help us with our schedules, our classes, but how many students even know we have counselors for mental health?"
- "Funding. Programs like [LIT] need funding."
- "I've realized that having mental health issues isn't a bad thing. Treating mental health is like treating an illness, or fixing a broken bone."
- "There’s a big difference between [hearing a teacher in the hallway tell you to] 'keep going' and [to] 'get going.'"
- "High school should teach us more about enjoying life. In elementary school, I never had a chance to get 'stuck.' When I am 'stuck,' I'm just waiting for the next thing; I'm not growing."
- "In LIT, I've learned that I'm beautiful, I'm intelligent, I have so much to offer."
- "We need a mentoring revolution," so students can receive the support and mentorship they need to be successful in school and life. "A lot of [young] people are missing male figures as personal mentors."
- "Young women experience different things than boys. We think different things, and have different needs."
Commissioner Ricker noted that discussions such as this are important in understanding data from the Minnesota Student Survey.
"You are helping these numbers become real in a very important way," said Ricker. "What I’m hearing from all of you is, 'Care about all of me. That might get me to class.'"
For more information about counseling services at RAHS, visit our Counseling webpage. Students receive services in a supportive, safe and caring environment regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, beliefs or ability.
About the Leaders in Training program
Seventh, eighth and ninth grade students attend regular sessions with high school student coaches, doing deep exploration of their personal styles and focus on leadership and public speaking skills. They do assessments of their own family dynamics and dream mapping to set life goals. Putting all of this together, the participants construct their life stories in compelling and artistic ways so they can tell them to others with a focus on equity and racial reconciliation.
LIT participants have done presentations at their high school and have been keynote presenters for Roseville Schools staff and the Minnesota Community Education Association Leadership Conference. Their highly personal stories and presentations reinforce how important and meaningful serving with equity can be.
About the Minnesota Student Survey
Every three years, Minnesota’s fifth-, eighth-, ninth- and 11th-grade students complete this voluntary, anonymous survey. It includes questions on school climate, bullying, out-of-school activities, healthy eating, emotional health, substance use, connections with school and family, and many other topics. State agencies use the survey to identify important trends and target effort and resources to more efficiently improve the well-being of the state’s youth. More than 170,000 students participated in the 2019 survey. Read a press release from the Minnesota Department of Education about the 2019 results.
A summary of Roseville Area Schools' results from the survey will be shared with the school board in February 2020.