While strolling through Hobby Lobby, a creative idea came to Central Elementary School Counselor Ashley Williams: transform an empty locker at her school into a mailbox where student could anonymously drop notes expressing how they feel.
“I noticed there were a lot of students who needed that extra person they could come to,” Williams said. “The emotional and mental state of kids is something that we are really focusing on, so I wanted to give my kids the opportunity to know that’s what I’m here for.”
The locker-turned-mailbox allows students to easily tell Williams how they are feeling about a situation they may be afraid or embarrassed to publicly discuss. They simply write about it on a piece of paper and slip it inside the locker.
“My goal is for everyone to use it anonymously,” Williams said. “I want students to feel comfortable. They know that by dropping a note in my locker, nobody will see it except for me.”
Without an initial face-to-face conversation, students now have the option to step over that barrier of fear, making it easier for them to tell someone how they are feeling.
“I think that already knowing what is going on with students beforehand helps them open up even more,” Williams said. “It’s amazing the things you find out that kids really want to talk about.”
Although many of the notes Williams receives revolve around a difficult or emotional situation, students sometimes reach out to share positive news.
“I’ve even had a staff member ask if they can drop a note in the locker to meet with them,” Williams said. “Our staff sees the mailbox locker is working for their students and that kids are doing better in classes.”
Williams made the swap from history teacher to counselor so she could help students improve their self-esteem and mental health.
“Central received all six distinctions from the state with an A rating, and that’s not just a result of our focus on education, it’s because of our impact on kids,” Williams said. “I grew up in a fantastic home and noticed, as a teacher, that other students didn’t grow up in the kind of home that I did. I wanted them to have somebody that could almost be their family member, because these are not just kids to me, they’re my life.”