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New Chill Room educator brings changes, makes connections

Baldwin+High+schools+new+chill+room+educator%2C+Jerad+Smith%2C+executes+massive+changes+within+the+program+with+his+experience+in+psychology+and+school+counseling.
Asmita Pokharel
Baldwin High school’s new chill room educator, Jerad Smith, executes massive changes within the program with his experience in psychology and school counseling.

Jerad Smith, who runs the Chill Room, found his calling to be an outlet students can rely on through his own experience of being helped by a school counselor. 

“When I was 5 years old, my parents went through a divorce, and I had a counselor who took the time out of their day to make sure I was okay,” said Smith, a behavioral health educator. “That was a big catalyst and driving factor for me.  I cannot necessarily quantify how that has changed me and my life, but I am here now, and I reflect on that often.”

Smith said he enjoys working with high school students because they are at a pivotal point in their lives. 

“I was stressed in high school when social media had not even blown up yet, and because of it, it’s so much more stressful to be a teen right now,” Smith said. “I like working with high school students because it is such a critical point in human development.”

Being a first-generation college student, Smith was not always so sure about his career path. 

“I was an undecided student until my senior year of college until I decided to pick psychology,” Smith said. “Around the same time, I found a work-study job at a private school for students with disabilities, and I loved it.”

Smith found the experience rewarding and got drawn toward the education and mental health field. 

“I received a lot of positive feedback, and even before that, in high school, I was always the friend who would give advice and feedback,” Smith said. “A mixture of these things set me up for this path.”

Smith received his bachelor’s from the University of Pittsburgh in psychology. He then worked for a year as a service coordinator at UPMC, linking adults with various mental illnesses to resources within their communities.

He went back to grad school and earned a master’s in education in school counseling from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, so he could work in a school setting. 

Before joining the Chill Room at Baldwin, which is run by Allegheny Health Network, Smith worked as a school counselor for about eight years at several schools in Allegheny County.

“I got out of school counseling altogether around two years ago. I wanted to do something more clinical and do direct work with students,” Smith said. “I was doing school-based therapy last year at South Park School District when my supervisors approached me for this position at Baldwin. I started part-time last year, from the end of February, and now I am here full-time.

I like working with high school students because it is such a critical point in human development.”

His main goal for this year, he said, is to restore the integrity of the Chill Room, acknowledging that there has been some inconsistency with how the program operated. Some students were using the Chill Room to avoid going to class.

“I have some set policies in the Chill Room. Generally, when a student comes in, they learn something, they calm down, and can return to class in 10-15 minutes,” Smith said. “Rather than having kids in here for longer and missing out on class, I am trying to empower them to get back out there and use some of the techniques they learn.” 

On a similar note, students in the Chill Room are not allowed to use their phones.

“I will be collecting phones to prevent students from using this room in a non-intended way,” Smith said. “This is a very cool place, but it is not a hangout spot.”

Smith wants the Chill Room to be a place where students can get help when feeling emotional distress, develop some coping skills, and learn about promoting positive well-being. 

“I also want to focus more on the preventative things our program offers as well and teach them ahead of time about mindfulness techniques,” Smith said.

Smith also hopes to run small-group discussions and is planning on helping to restore the Chill Club. He has also introduced a new idea, Teacher Tuesdays. 

“On the second Tuesday of every month, I close the room down to students, and for the day only teachers are allowed in the room,” Smith said. “I provide them with coffee and some goodies. I want to start building some kind of connection with teachers and restore their faith in the Chill Room. Teachers deal with a lot of stress too, so I think this will be a very good addition to the purpose of this room.”

To introduce students to the Chill Room, freshman English classes and sophomore Social Studies classes are visiting the Chill Room once a quarter. 

Sophomore Reshma Timsina said she found her visit to the Chill Room through her history class rewarding. 

“When I visited the Chill Room with my history class this year, I had just taken a test and I was worried about my test results, but being in the room helped me calm down,” Timsina said. “The Chill Room is a very important part of our school, and is a great place to visit if you are having some trouble dealing with stress.” 

The room is also going to have specific themes for each quarter. 

“The first quarter’s themes were gratitude, empathy, and kindness. This quarter we will be focusing on resilience, motivation, and confidence,” Smith said. “With the themes, I will be talking to kids who visit the room about ways they can apply these themes to help themselves.”

Freshman Bethel Emmanuel found lessons from the Chill Room could be implemented into her daily life. 

“I learned that you need to watch what you say because you don’t know how someone will perceive it, and how it may come off for other people,” Emmanuel said. 

Smith is also working with social studies teacher David Dunaway in his psychology classes. 

“Mr. Dunaway reached out to me and mentioned that he has had partnerships with previous Chill Room educators as part of his psychology class,” Smith said. 

If you do get knocked down, it is important to get back up.

— Jerad Smith

Dunaway has been bringing his classes to the Chill Room since it opened. 

“I implemented the Chill Room and the program into my curriculum as it’s an easy fit in psychology and mental health,” Dunaway said. “The Chill Room has had many positive uses, as techniques like mindfulness can not only help my students but teach them to be advocates for other students to utilize the room.” 

Coming from a psychology background himself, Smith brings in his past experiences to teach some lessons to the students. 

“The big thing I emphasize with Mr. Dunaway’s class is the versatility of getting an education in psychology. I try to show them the different careers they could do if they decided to further their interests in psychology,” Smith said. “There are many branches of being a psychologist, as they can work in every industry from business to law. It gives you a good background to do anything because it emphasizes soft skills and problem-solving about how people think and behave.”

In his free time, Smith also coaches soccer for the Baldwin Whitehall Soccer Association.

“I just started coaching, and I coach little kids, who are very different from high school kids,” Smith said. “I try to bring a level of positivity, and understanding to both. When a kid misses a shot, or gets a goal scored on them, it is important to make sure that they pick themselves back up. That is somewhat relevant to this room: When a kid comes in with a difficult circumstance, I am here to help them to make the best choices moving forward. If you do get knocked down, it is important to get back up.”

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About the Contributors
Asmita Pokharel
Asmita Pokharel, Entertainment Editor
Entertainment Editor Asmita Pokharel is a senior and a third-year member of the Purbalite. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her friends, go on walks, and watch soccer.
Tumi Ojo
Tumi Ojo, Entertainment Editor
Entertainment Editor Tumi Ojo is a senior and a fourth-year member of the Purbalite. She can be found talking with friends, drawing, listening to music, or napping.
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