GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A huge investment into East Grand Rapids Public Schools will provide more support for its students’ mental health needs.
“Our students, just like every other person, deals with a lot,” East Grand Rapids High School Principal Craig Weigel said.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that mental health among high school students was getting worse.
That struggle in and out of the classroom is the same for younger children.
More reports by the CDC indicate that in a classroom of 25 students at least five of them will struggle with anxiety, depression or some form of mental illness.
“It needs to have the importance that all the other academics have,” Executive Director of East Grand Rapids School Foundation Amy Sturrsma said.
One man in the community didn’t ignore his role to help overcome those challenges. Recently, he donated $1 million to the East Grand Rapids School Foundation.
“Children of this generation are in desperate need of help to complete the academic regimen and meet the expectations we have for them. We know that EGR kids have some serious challenges in front of them and we must find out why,” the anonymous donor said in a statement.
Last summer, the district received a $750,000 grant from the foundation to support students’ mental health district-wide. It will last the next three years.
Since then, the district has hired a mental health coordinator and a social worker.
Stuursma says the million-dollar donation has given them the momentum needed to start the first-ever Mental Health and Wellness Fund.
Two people have already pledged $50,000 each toward the fund. Stuursma believes it will add lasting resources, support, programs and security.
“That is the exciting part because this will allow us to be sustainable,” she said. “We are grateful for our community recognizing that mental health needs to come to the forefront as part of educating the whole child.”
Students have filled out surveys to determine what their needs are. Staff members are working through the responses to implement specific programs and support.