Originally published March 12, 2022 by Spectrum News 1 NY.

By Justine Re

Calming light and sounds of a small waterfall fill a space where you would least expect it: a New York City high school in Queens.

Physical education teacher Adela Brudasca is the visionary behind the mediation room at Hillcrest High School, which has been up and running for two months.

"It's been a dream of mine to have a room like this,” Brudasca said.

The CDC reports mental health related trips to the emergency room increased by more than 30 percent for teenagers thoughout the pandemic
She understood the power of meditation as tool for emotional health and felt inspired to share it with her students.

"I used to do yoga all the time, but I never actually meditated. But during the pandemic I was having a very difficult time sleeping because my sleeping schedule was off and that was when I gave meditation a try and it actually really worked for me,” Brudasca said.

With the help of a grant from the city Department of Education she is using the space to teach students about social emotional learning to help them manage the obstacles of living through the pandemic.

"Our students are having a hard time adjusting to being back. Tare very attached to their electronics and their phones and we need to find different ways to engage them. This is a great way for them to really just stop for a second and think and release stress," Brudasca said. “And finally no masks in school, it's optional.

The CDC reports mental health related trips to the emergency room increased by more than 30 percent for teenagers throughout the pandemic.

Brudasca says there are many benefits to this type of zen space in a high school.

"We really want them to be able to control their own emotions especially when it comes to anger and be able to de-escalate themselves,” Brudasca said.

Kayla Mims, an 11th grader, has found a great deal of solace from it.

"I feel relaxed peaceful,” Mims said.

And the students are not the only ones utilizing the resource, so are the teachers.

"I have a lot of teachers that they come in here just for 5 minutes and they feel at peace and they feel so good after being in here,” Brudasca said.

Currently the meditation room is available during the school day as well as after school, but eventually Brudasca hopes to expand the program. She hopes meditation will eventually become part of the curriculum, so every student will give it a try.

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