Lucerne Valley High School student Emilia Daniels was presented with a special award from the school district on behalf of 33rd District Assemblyman Thurston “Smitty” Smith. She was awarded for her work on improving mental health care for students and for her participation in a Mighty Future Leaders presentation at the Small School Districts’ Association conference in March.
Superintendent Peter Livingston, who presented the award to Emilia, said it was the first such award he has given to a student in the past several years.
Later in the meeting, Emilia gave a detailed presentation on how the school district could better meet the needs of students facing mental health challenges. Entitled “Changing California Schools For The Better,” her presentation focused on mental health in relation to the school system. She applauded programs that have been implemented such as CareSolace, which provides Care Companions with students, staff and families in need and securing appointments in a matter of days, having school counselors and posters with the National Suicide Prevention hotline telephone number.
Emilia said students everywhere deal with a number of stressful issues that could be improved with increased programs. She suggested having mental health integrated as a class topic, hosting an annual confidential evaluation for students, and seeking the statewide implementation of these improvements with the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission.
Emilia gave some a sobering statistic: Suicide, sparked by depression, is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. She said that the goal of Social Emotional Learning, which has been embraced by the school district, is to teach social and emotional skills to students. Peer counseling also can help students know they are not alone. She encouraged the school system to share this information with stakeholders to help alleviate teen depression.
From left, Superintendent Peter Livingston, school board member Tom Courtney, Jessica Risler (president) and Chelsea LaGrange (vice-president), Emilia Daniels, and board members Jason Hansen (clerk) and Jim Harvey. Photo by Doug Beaton