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Rodriguez Takes a Deep Dive into Solving Rising Mental Health Problems

Rodriguez rewards Librarian Amanda Burks with the “Mental Health Champion” award.
Will Gibbs
Rodriguez rewards Librarian Amanda Burks with the “Mental Health Champion” award.

Mental health is one of the most pressing problems facing high school students.  Four out of every ten teenagers are suffering from mental health issues (cdc.gov). Rockbridge County High School, and in particular, Mr. Jay Rodriguez, are attempting to fix it. 

Rodriguez was hired last year as the Community School Grant Coordinator, which Governor Glenn Youngkin’s “All in VA” plan funds. 

Rodriguez began his tenure by creating a robust program to improve attendance including posters, outreach to families, and rewards for good habits. 

Although some students might not know about the entire attendance program, almost everyone knows Rodriguez’s most famous initiative, the “Spin-the-wheel” game. This weekly activity randomly selects students with perfect or improving attendance and features them on the morning announcements. During the announcements, they spin a wheel with prizes ranging from t-shirts to a polaroid camera. This game has led to Rodriguez’s well-known nickname, “The Spin-the-wheel Guy.”

Now, noticing the strong link between mental health and attendance, Rodriguez is turning his attention to a new subject by starting a mental health campaign.

This campaign started with a bulletin board across from the library, which features useful advice and encouraging messages such as “Do what you love,” written by junior Mackenzie Marshall. Furthermore, this board includes relaxing coloring sheets which students can return to Rodriguez for a prize. 

Rodriguez, with the help of the library staff, has also built a de-stress area in the upper left side of the library. They have transformed this space with greenery, seating, a rotating craft table known as “The Maker Bar,” and a variety of reading options featuring books on mental health.

 Senior Henry Lambert spends his time studying and relaxing in Rodriguez’s new de-stress area. “It’s quiet and peaceful,” said Lambert. 

Additionally, Rodriguez has implemented a new award called “Mental Health Champion” to promote the cause. The award recognizes faculty and staff who are helping students with mental health. 

Mr. Bobby Hinkle, an alternative education teacher, was one of the first recipients of the award and spoke on what the award means to him. “[This award] makes me feel excited because it means that others have seen the reason why I interact [the way I do],”  said Hinkle. “Hopefully others can replicate [what I do] and make a positive impact on the school climate.”

Rodriguez also mentioned a variety of other “very exciting but still top secret” projects that will be revealed soon. So, stay tuned for more exciting developments from Rodriguez and the mental health program.

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About the Contributor
Will Gibbs
Will Gibbs, Reporter
Will Gibbs is a senior at RCHS and first-year reporter. He is involved in golf, swimming, and track as well as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Latin Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and National Honor Society. After high school, Gibbs plans to pursue a business degree at a four year college and swim on the school’s team. In his free time, Gibbs likes to bike local trails and play with his dog, Ginger.

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