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The Student News Site of Loudoun Valley High School

The Viking

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As GenAI (or generative artificial intelligence) is continuing to expand to encompass all creative and factual horizons, students today have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips — and then some. We were the guinea pigs for the iPhone, and now our generation are the experimental subjects for artificial intelligence.

Read this debate between Avery Ramsey and Claire O`Connor at the link in our bio!

By Avery Ramsey and Claire O`Connor | Staff Reporters
Photo by Claire O`Connor
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By Kenzie Farrey, Kate Miller, and Megan Fennelly
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Valley Welcomes Mental Wellness Under “The FORT”

Enaya+Bokhari
Enaya Bokhari
Enaya Bokhari

Valley will be welcoming a new mental health and wellness program by the Ryan Bartel Foundation, a Loudoun County based non profit organization, through the month of April known as “The FORT”.

“The FORT” is an afterschool program that aims to create a safe space for teens, hosting numerous de-stress activities that promote mental health and wellness as well as collaboration among peers. “The FORT” will be hosting three workshops through the month of April, all on Mondays. Their respective dates are: April 8, April 15, and April 22. 

“The FORT” aims to teach teens to prioritize their mental well-being by ultimately achieving a school-life balance. 

Suzie Bartel, Co Founder and Chair of the Ryan Bartel Foundation, explains the struggle of balance teens commonly face. “High school students have a lot on their plate, from academic pressure, to after school activities, jobs, earning community hours etc while also discovering who they are,” she said. 

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“It’s easily overwhelming and is often a series of many challenges that can collide and affect one’s overall mental state,” Bartel said.

“The FORT” aims to aid teens with resources to do so by hosting numerous relaxing activities that occur on their respective workshop dates. These workshops include journaling and yoga on the 8th, knitting on the 15th, and chilling with therapy dogs on the 22nd, The FORT’s last session. 

Valley’s school psychologist, Pamela Lindo, shares her favorite aspects that “The FORT” has to offer.

“My favorite aspect of FORT is that it offers an opportunity to form positive peer interactions which can be so supportive during the high school years. Plus, it’s fun and interactive,” Lindo said. 

The chosen activities for each workshop fall into four different holistic categories, all with the same goal of aiding students with a relaxing, de-stress environment. These four categories include artistic activities as a medium to express emotions, i.e. journaling; mindfulness as a means for students to stay present in the moment, i.e. knitting; interacting with animals and nature that boost overall mood, i.e. therapy dogs, and the fourth category being movement and exercise to release endorphins and boost cognitive ability, i.e. yoga. 

Enaya Bokhari

Each time “The FORT” meets, we aim to choose activities within those modalities that give a variety of experiences and a holistic approach to a healthy mind and body, so participants can try things they really enjoy that boost their overall mental health,” Bartel said. 

The Ryan Bartel Foundation brought “The FORT” to life in 2018 due to feedback from teens across the county wanting a safe community space. Teens reported that they wanted a space where they could chill, decompress, make friends, and truly practice good wellness habits. 

“We conducted focus groups and surveys to find out what activities they would want to do in this place, which influenced what workshops we offered,” Bartel said. 

Since then, the Ryan Bartel Foundation has refined this program through seeking feedback from participants and working closely with mental health professionals as well as experts within the workshop fields. 

“The FORT” initially hosted twice a month meetups on Sundays, each workshop being three hours. Recently, however, The Ryan Bartel Foundation has cultivated this program to be more accessible, thus bringing it to the students at high schools as an after school program across the county.

The main thing “The FORT” hopes students will take away, other than the healing activities and workshops, is the sense of community it has to offer, and that students aren’t alone when it comes to dealing and managing stress. 

“I think “The FORT” will benefit students at Valley by instilling a sense of unity and bonding experience with the other members of “The FORT” class, and this in turn, can be very therapeutic for many students,” Lindo said.

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Enaya Bokhari, Staff Reporter
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