Open the bright yellow door. Walk in. Mesmerized, yes! Your eyes will dart around the room trying to take in all the magic.
In March of 2016 Susanna Winstead, principal of Sycamore School, invited Redding Breakfast Lions Club member Kurt Tollefson to be Principal for a Day. During that visit he was so impressed with what was transpiring that he wanted to become involved with the school.
In the first part of June 2016 three members of the Redding Breakfast Lions Club arrived at the school for a meeting with Susanna Winstead.
She escorted us to a location and announced that a woman would join us, if we didn’t mind. The room was an array of abandoned boxes and furniture. The five of us made our way to the only empty table and took a seat.
We came there to discuss the possible adoption of Sycamore School. What were their goals for the school? What role did they picture for the Lions' participation?
We talked about the children and how Susanna was trying to make a difference with those having issues of trauma in their lives. She gave us an insightful article by Heather T. Forbes, LCSW, “Teaching Trauma in the Classroom”.
When she finished talking Susanna turned to Olivia LaField to continue the conversation.
Olivia soon transported us to her vision of a glorious room where children learn how to self-regulate. She explained how a child’s brain works and what it will take to get them back in the classroom. If they are not in the classroom, they can’t learn.
Olivia overwhelmed us with what she called the “Skills of Independence”:
- Are self-starters, who don’t wait for the teacher to tell them what to do.
- Make wise use of their time.
- Are not easily distracted by their peers.
- Can be trusted to stay on task – even when no one is there to make sure.
She hoped that with the help of the Lions an ordinary room could be transformed into a room filled with love and happiness. It would be called the PALZ room: Peace And Love Zone. We were soon swept up in her dream.
During the summer many of us from the Redding Breakfast Lions Club came each week to that little classroom and put in many hours. By mid-September the room was completed.
As each piece of the puzzle was implemented, we could see the vision taking place. White paint on the upper walls, a cheerful blue for the lower walls, bright yellow trim, touched off with a white baseboard.
Whimsical pictures on the walls, bright-colored furniture and cupboards. Two white glider chairs and three white bean bags placed on a bright yellow rug. Yellow curtains trimmed with blue. A few stuffed animals relaxed in the gliders, an inviting scene to behold.
With soft music playing in the background whatever stress you had before entering the room will soon dissipate. Happy and peace abound. The room is calming and love exudes just by being there.
It is a sanctuary for kids dealing with trauma. These children don’t understand how to cope with trauma. What triggers a meltdown is as unpredictable as the weather.
Some might ask, “Does this room make a difference?" The answer is a resounding yes. Kids out of control who once coped by crawling under tables, crying, fighting and fleeing have now learned how to take charge of their emotions. True, setbacks happen, but the days become fewer.
These children learn how to calm themselves and control their behavior. With set goals to achieve they are given the knowledge and the tools to follow their progress. The ability to make it happen becomes a tremendous boost to their self-esteem.
Some may say, "This is wonderful, but why should I care?"
If these troubled elementary children are reached and intervention starts in the formative years, the impact is huge. Sycamore Elementary School has taken the responsibility of good stewardship to all students who enter the campus.
Trauma students passing through any school system grow up to be adults. If the community is lucky, they will fit into society. But if they don’t, where they eventually reside can have negative results on that community.
Sycamore Elementary School’s wonderful empowering programs are life-changing. The families benefit. Children are learning to be more helpful at home just by knowing what a loving family means. If parents can see a change in their kids, the family unit becomes a healthier entity. Happy children have empathy for others and will be an asset for the community, a boomerang effect for everyone.
Caring really matters. With community support we can continue working with Sycamore School and their projects for a better future for the children. Redding Breakfast Lions Club is interested in duplicating this model program to other schools in Shasta County.
Visit us at http://reddingbreakfastlionsclub.com/
Mary Stephenson was born and raised in Canada. She lived in Washington for awhile and then moved to Hayward, California. In 2015 she moved to Shasta County. The plan was to retire in the country. Mary has found that retirement is not at all about trying to fill the days with mundane hobbies. Soon, she and hubby became members of the Redding Breakfast Lions Club. Together they created a website for the Club and she became the web editor. Mary is a member of AWAI and enjoys writing.