When Champlain Valley Union High School student Emma Lieberman started having panic attacks at school last year, she got permission from her teachers to leave the classroom to calm down. But she often ended up in the nurse's office, staring up at flickering lights. "I eventually calmed down," she remembers, "but it wasn't a calming place." Last year, as part of an innovation project in her sophomore humanities class, she decided to design a haven for the more than 20 CVU students like her who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. After reading about sensory rooms and consulting with mental-health professionals and school officials, she embarked on a fundraising campaign to give her high school its very own Sensory Room. To date, she's raised $2,000 of the $2,500 needed to equip the room with beanbag chairs, weighted blankets, soft lights and other calming items. If all goes as planned, the room will be open to students in the spring of 2017. Emma acknowledges that it's impossible to eliminate stress from schools entirely. "There's always social drama," she says. "If there's a big exam ... you can't just cancel the test." But you can create a little oasis that allows students to briefly escape, calm down and then step back into the fray.
To learn more about Emma's campaign to create a Sensory room, visit gofundme.com/22wkf6bn.
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