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The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Szendrey Makes Space for Mindfulness at School

Mindfulness Room offers strategies for stress and anxiety
The Shakerite
Lights frame artwork in Room 216, helping to create a peaceful mood in the zen, or mindfulness room created by guidance counselor Catherine Szendrey.

Picture a room with warm lighting, yoga mats and relaxing music. 

As you walk around, you discover stress balls, coloring materials and even a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Sound-blocking machines mute noise from outside of the classroom. 

This is guidance counselor Catherine Szendrey’s vision for Room 216, where a “mindfulness” or “zen” room is being developed. 

Szendrey runs two Flex Block activities: Mindfulness Practice and Training from 2-3 p.m. on Tuesdays, and Yoga for Athletes from 2-3 p.m. on Thursdays. Both meet in Room 216, where Szendrey integrates the Mindfulness Room into these Flex Block activities. 

Next year, when Flex Block is discontinued, Szendrey wants the Mindfulness Room to be open before and after school. She plans to create a mindfulness and yoga club. 

Students can come to this room to deal with anxiety, depression, stress or school avoidance problems. Inside, they’ll learn new skills for dealing with mental health and self-regulation, the ability to manage and understand one’s emotions. 

“I feel like Shaker has always been groundbreaking in what we do, and I really want to transform how we do things with mental health here,” Szendrey said.

Szendrey became a yoga instructor during the COVID-19 lockdown. After seeing the mental health benefits of yoga practice, she integrated it into her work. Szendrey has been developing the Mindfulness Room for more than two years.

She is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on trauma-informed education. She will also work to gain her Yin Yoga therapist certification this summer. 

Mindfulness, according to the American Psychological Association, constitutes “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings.” That awareness helps people avoid destructive habits by observing their thoughts without judgement.

Szendrey first incorporated these ideas into Crew, when the staff was discussing what the Crew curriculum would look like. “It just kind of developed from there,” she said.

It “really took off” when working with the men’s basketball team, Szendrey said. She also worked with the lacrosse and dance teams, anatomy classes and Crew classes. Soon enough, the program was growing — and it needed a bigger space. 

But the room is still in development. “Right now, we don’t have much space in the high school,” Szendrey said. “Plus, I would have to man it.” To help staff the room, Szendrey wants to train students to become mindfulness and yoga instructors. Additionally, she would train teachers and implement rotating coverage for the space.

Next year, Szendrey hopes to make the space a full time “mindfulness lab,” she said. 

“My goal is to make this as diverse as possible,” she said. “I want everybody to feel like this is their thing.” 

A version of this article appears in print on page 6 of Volume 94, Issue 2, published May 24, 2024. 

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