Mental Health Literacy Day

Singing in unison. Planting seeds and digging in the dirt. Reading graphic novels. Eating a delicious meal. Journaling. Making art. Exercising. These are more than just fun activities: they are all powerful tools to reflect on and make changes in your mental health and well-being. And on Friday, May 10, YMCA Academy students did all of these things, and much more, at the school’s second annual Mental Health Literacy Day.

This event is the latest in a long line of Academy initiatives built to help young people understand and manage their mental health. As a school, we’ve long taken a holistic approach to student support, and we were an early adopter of making mindfulness exercises a daily part of school life. Earlier this year, we launched a unique interdisciplinary course in mental health advocacy and awareness. “We are really looking to empower students so that they are building up their skill sets while they’re here,” says Kaili Glennon, the Academy’s Assistant Head of School and Guidance Supervisor. “That way, when they leave, they have the capacity to be healthy and happy on their own.”

With that in mind, Mental Health Literacy Day was designed with a hands-on, practical approach. The workshops and guest speakers each provided students with resources and knowledge they can use right away to improve their mental health, and become more literate in mental health issues. “This event is about starting a conversation about mental health, and making it a regular part of our speech,” says Dayna Dann, Academy teacher and creator of the new mental health course. “We want to give students the language to communicate their feelings in a positive way.”

For Bailey, a YMCA Academy student, the impact was immediate. “On Mental Health Literacy Day, I learned lots of things,” he says. “I learned that walking can help with your mental health, which I had no idea would help. I also learned lots about how to sleep better and how to manage my sleep.”

Bailey sees a range of benefits to events like these. “First of all, it informs everyone about mental health and some people forget about it,” he says. “As well, it can give the students a break and relieve the stress and anxiety of school.”

Duncan, another Academy student who is also enrolled in the school’s new mental health course, agrees. “I think it’s very important to discuss and do events surrounding mental health,” he says. “There is a lot of stigma and negativity surrounding mental health. So it’s very important to learn about things like that.”

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

Allan Gardens Trip

On Friday, April 12, Zoe’s Art class and Dayna’s Mental Health class went on a trip to Allan Gardens. The Art class had just learnt about Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful paintings of flowers. The goal of the trip was to take a zoomed in and abstract photo of a flower to then recreate as a watercolour painting in class. Students took some really interesting photos of different flowers. Some photos were so up close that you could hardly tell it was a flower at all!

Dayna’s class was focusing on relaxing and appreciating beauty in nature. Prior to the trip, the class has spoken about how there is a connection between mental health and the outdoors. Allan Gardens is a place the students can visit to experience serenity only 15 minutes away from the school. Overall, the trip was enjoyed by both classes, because of both the beauty and the warmth of the greenhouses!

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

Academy Rowing Crew’s 24-hour Row

The Sweat for Good Challenge!

It’s just 3 days until the Academy Rowing Crew’s 24-hour row!

We’ll be rowing from 8am on Friday, March 1st through to 8am on Saturday, March 2nd.  This is truly an Academy community event.  We currently have over 65 students, staff, alumni, families, volunteers and friends signed up to participate with our team!

Adding to the team effort this year, Colleen, one of the Academy’s teachers, will be attempting to set a new world distance record for a 24-hour row.

The Sweat for Good Challenge (formerly known as Megathon) is an important part of our school’s annual initiative to promote the connection between mental wellness and physical activity. The focus is to raise our students’ awareness about the role physical activity plays in mental health. Being active reduces the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression — issues that impact many young people.

Last year, we raised over $2,500 and our goal is to surpass that number this year.

All fundraising from this event goes towards making YMCA programs financially accessible to everyone. Students at the Academy benefit directly from these funds.

Check out our Sweat for Good Challenge page – Donations can be made here!

If you wish to participate and haven’t signed up already, there’s still time to join our crew – contact Katie Clay

Fresh & Fiery Academy Hot Sauce!

It came time to harvest produce from our school garden!! Our Grade 7/8 class came up with ideas about what we could make with all of our produce. We had onions, tomatoes, and LOTS of different types of hot and sweet peppers. We decided that we would make HOT SAUCE!

Together we harvested everything from the garden. We looked up a variety of different hot sauce recipes and decided to combine a few to make our very own special Academy hot sauce. Next, we put on safety goggles and gloves to protect ourselves from the super hot peppers. Carefully we cut up all of our produce and simmered them down for several hours. Once it was ready, we allowed it to cool down, and blended it smooth. Then we were left with a large pot of hot sauce…

We knew that we wanted to jar the sauce, but we had no idea how much hot sauce we had! Luckily we figured out that if we figured out the volume of the pot, we could figure out how much hot sauce we had. So that is exactly what we did! First we all estimated how many cups of hot sauce we predicted was in pot. Then we calculated the volume. We then researched what jars we wanted to use and how many milliliters they held.We divided the volume of the sauce by the size of the jar. We calculated how many packages of jars we would need to purchase, how much they would cost and how much tax would be added. Then we used Google Maps to map our route and see how much time it would take us to get to the store to purchase our jars.

Once the jars were purchased and filled, the next step was to choose a name and design a label. Students worked together to come up with ideas, vote and eventually decided on Fresh and Fiery. The class also decided to sell the hot sauce for $7 each or 2 for $12 and all profits will go back to the garden fund.

This was a really nice project to start the year with as this project required a significant amount of collaboration and we were just getting to know each other and the school community.

This was a fun activity that had many curriculum connections. These connections were:

  • Math: Measurement and Volume
  • English: Blogs, read and writing the instructions
  • Science: PH levels
  • Business: Marketing, Brand management and Advertising

5km Bold and Cold Run!

On Saturday, November 24th, the YMCA Academy participated in the annual 5k Bold and Cold run organized by Team Unbreakable. Many students from the YMCA Academy showed up to either participate in the run, help out with the organization or show support for their peers. The 3 degree Saturday morning was the perfect weather for the 5K run the students had been training towards for the past months. Two of the Academy’s gym classes had been training for two months leading up to the run. As people arrived excited to run, it was some of their first times participating in a run and some were experienced runners but all were waiting and excited to begin. The energy in the crowd of people who had assembled to participate was extremely positive with encouragement throughout the group and eagerness to run.

Each student had their own personal goal that they had been working towards. Javier, a student who had never participated in a run before, said his goal was simply finishing. “I didn’t want to do it”, he said about leading up to the race, but “the support of the teachers” is what made him participate in the run. Seth, a student who is an experienced runner had a goal of finishing in under 25 minutes. He ended up finishing in 21 minutes and 40 seconds! “I felt accomplished,” said Seth about how he felt finishing the run, adding that “Nils came in every Wednesday to help us train for the run so that was very helpful”. The Academy had partnered with Team Unbreakable leading up to the run and Nils, a representative of Team Unbreakable, came in every week to help the Academy gym class students train for race through interval training. He helped each student achieve their personal goal.

The run had the students excited about participating in physical activity and helped educate them about mental health. “The run was a great experience” said one of the students, “and I hope to participate in the next one in spring”.

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

Written by: Jonah M.