December 02, 2019

JKBF’s Grant to Bard College supports Mental Health Initiatives

Bard College recently shared an update on their implementation of JKBF’s 2018 grant, which is funded in honor of Jamie by donations made by the Bernard family.

Stevenson Library at Bard

One of Jamie’s favorite places at Bard was the library, and upgrades to library services this year provided new opportunities for students to step back from their work and connect. Responding to needs outlined in student surveys conducted in 2017, Bard utilized JKBF’s $12,995 in facilities grant funding to fulfill student requests for flexible work space. Couches, coffee tables and abstract photographs were added to the library’s student cafe, and the inclusion of a typewriter in this area provides a popular opportunity for creative output. A staff room has been converted into a student group work space with wireless AV opportunities. Take-a-Break kits and activities, including popular therapy dog visits and community coloring projects, promote opportunities to relax and unwind.

Bard’s director of libraries, Betsy Cawley, shared her thoughts on the grant. ‘I have to say that one of the best things about receiving the gift from the James Bernard Foundation is that it has given us the opportunity to give students spaces and tools for stepping away from the pressures of school (and, indeed the world at large) in order to take care of themselves.’  

For the Health and Wellness program grant of $10,000, Bard utilized experts from the Active Minds speakers bureau to develop mental health programming for students and staff. Stacy Pershall, a professional mental health speaker, ran a writing workshop for student peer leaders and staff counselors entitled ‘The Most Astounding Fact, Writing for Peer Support and Recovery’ and provided instruction in the V-A-R Model of providing active listening and supportive responses to the everyday struggles of peers. In a second event, Stacy outlined her personal struggles with bullying, depression, eating disorders and a suicide attempt, and outlined the combination of therapies and medications that helped her to heal.

This fall, another Active Minds speaker, Kai Roberts, led a workshop on ‘Mental Health 101’ for peer leaders and a counselor, focusing on help-seeking, self care, and helping others in distress. In a high energy presentation combining hip hop and messaging, Kai engaged the crowd with his story of anxiety, panic disorder, and his path to health. We are pleased to see this collaboration between Bard and Active Minds, whose speakers can be engaged by high schools and colleges for a variety of mental health related purposes.

The JKBF grant also contributes to Bard’s annual Body Fest, an interactive event focused on health, wellness, and body activism. Body Fest offers sessions and exhibits including yoga, healthy eating, body image, and a workshop focusing on seasonal depression and the importance of staying in balance mentally and physically. Student participation in these events is facilitated with campus advertising and wellness-oriented raffles and prizes.

With wellbeing a high priority, peer leaders supervised by the Bard Health and Wellness Education Director provide education and resources to their peers through Bard’s BRAVE and Peer Health organizations. JKBF appreciates this commitment to their students, and is grateful for the opportunity to preserve Jamie’s memory and promote mental as well as physical health in supporting these efforts.