Compassion Courtyard, safe space for peers

Lasirra Hines , Entertainment Editor

A Compassion Courtyard to meet the needs of Manhattan High students and others struggling with grief and loss could soon be a reality at MHS, thanks to grant funds. 

The idea of the Compassion Courtyard came about after a couple of deaths of people associated with MHS, when it became apparent that people were struggling with those issues more than initially thought.

“You hear an announcement over the intercom, ‘This has happened and counselors are available if you need to talk,’” Nate McClendon, Orchestra and Jazz Band director, said.“And then it’s like, ‘Okay go back to your normal activities.’” 

McClendon is also a member of the Compassion committee.

It was also discovered that students and teachers alike were going through more stress and anxiety than most were aware of.

After consideration, they started to discuss better ways of dealing with events such as those. The first idea that came to mind was creating a safe space that people could go to. It would be a place of reflection for anyone who needed space or time to reflect on any stress or worries they may have.

“So we wanted to explore ways of dealing with those kinds of issues as a school, and the first idea was to create a safe space place that people could go,” McClendon said. 

The courtyard would provide a safe space where students could go to get away from the school surroundings, as it can be overwhelming for some. It would be a place where students could meet and talk about things. 

“This school we’ve had this new building for a while and it’s a great building but it’s also very hard. All the walls are white and it’s very sterile, I guess is a way of putting it,” McClendon said. “And so we wanted to create a place that was maybe more reflective, a place you could go to kind of get away. A place that would allow people to meet to be able to talk about things. Somewhere that isn’t a hard place like the rest of the school is.”

The recent grant came from the Daniel Keating Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on “lifting up young people” as it says on their website. The organization was launched in 2017, and “extends hope and inclusion by giving young people the help and resources they need.” While at the USD 383 Site Council meeting last spring, the committee made a presentation to the site council about the courtyard. A member from the Keating Foundation was present at the meetin’d approached the committee and had them explain more about the courtyard.

“A member of the Keating Foundation happened to be there, and then they asked us a little bit more about it and said that we should apply for the grant to their organization, which we did,” McClendon said. “Then they awarded the grant and that grant actually funds pretty much the entire project that we were hoping to, which is fantastic.”

So far, the plan is to start the first part of construction by next spring.

The Compassion Courtyard is part of a much larger project, which is aimed at helping people become more empathic. There is some of that educational aspect shown in the Advisory class, where the committee is able to get some time to present a project or include a small lesson. At the beginning of the year, there was a video from McClendon talking about compassion, and that was the start.

“We are looking at doing more and more educational lessons, but also activities so that students will participate and that will help us in becoming more empathetic people,” McClendon said, “More aware of our surroundings, more aware of each other and what we are all going through.”

The main message from the committee is to bring light to the idea that we don’t know what everyone is going through, and we need to start showing more empathy towards people, and know how much of an impact we all have on our surroundings and each other.

“The Compassion Project really is like a bigger vision of what we have for the school. And really the agenda, the message we want to get out is we don’t know what people are going through and who is going through what,” McClendon said. “We also don’t understand the power that we can have to help and/or hurt someone. Eventually it would be great to have a community where we actually are concerned and brave enough to do something about it.”