School counselor Mrs. Ruark links students’ success to their mental health

Josh Farley, Annabelle Scianna, and Star Kubic

Dealing with mental health takes a lot of care and dedication. Here at Canfield High School, one person has been going above and beyond this year: Mrs. Ruark. As the newest guidance counselor here at CHS, Mrs. Ruark has helped bring many new resources to the discussion of mental health in Canfield, and her work with the Linkages Trainings will help Canfield’s students discuss and help each other with mental health for years to come.

Mrs. Ruark has spent years developing her relationship with the Linkages training program, which specializes in teaching students how to optimize their own social-emotional learning, and to create an environment in their communities that encourages people to be open about their feelings. Mrs. Ruark has been teaching Linkages training for the last six years. She began by teaching these important lessons the students of West Branch middle school. When deciding to bring the teachings with her to her alma mater— CHS, Mrs. Ruark knew that it was extremely important for the students of Canfield to learn about developing their social-emotional health. It was so “Vital to bring this to Canfield,” that Mrs. Ruark has now spent a lot of time in her new office listening to her students, and getting feedback to help improve the training for next year’s group of students. Ultimately, she knows that her work will be a challenge; reducing the large and negative stigma around mental health is her ultimate goal.

Mrs. Ruark has been all too familiar with that stigma throughout her life. She challenges the idea that anyone is above mental health concerns, saying that “I did not ever subscribe to the thought that ‘Oh, it’s Canfield– they don’t have problems there…’’’ Having been a student here at Canfield relatively recently, Mrs. Ruark “[H]ad a pulse on how guidance counselors [were] used here in this school district up to this point,” which has inspired her and the other new guidance counselors to take action in their first years in Canfield. Three out of the five guidance counselors here at CHS are new for this school year, and with Superintendent Knoll also being new to the district, it seems like Mrs. Ruark and the rest of the counselor staff have a prime opportunity to increase knowledge of social-emotional health in the community.

By trying to challenge the stigma of mental health, the Linkages training is focusing on education and community. The counselors want to create an open environment, where students feel free to discuss their problems and concerns with each other. Looking forward, Mrs. Ruark has many plans to make this dream a possibility. She wants to create an outreach program that will allow juniors and seniors to become “big brothers and big sisters,” This will be a two-year program will see juniors partner with an eighth grader who they will mentor, and will then see them through their freshmen year. “Education has to come early,” Mrs. Ruark says, and wants to ultimately change how students view their counselors, “[We are] not just for schedules,” she looks to remind the students of CHS. There will be a new Linkages program this season for the senior class, to prepare them for the challenges of living on their own in college. But, the most ambitious new program is called MOSAICS. This program will unite all of Canfield’s students in a peaceful and unifying environment, which will help create a strong culture of community within our school. With all of these initiatives in mind, Mrs. Ruark would like to finish with this question: “[Canfield High School] is your society. How can you make it kind?” Everyone has their own answer, but taking action to make everyone around you feel comfortable in being themself is a great way to start.