Rachel Roehrich created a website to help students navigate life in high school and connect them to mental health and addiction resources.
The website was an idea generated by Roehrich, a sophomore at Century High School, and a small group of classmates in a leadership class as a one-stop, user-friendly site for students.
"It's focused mainly around mental health," Roehrich said.
The site, called CHS Corner, launched Wednesday. It includes tips for students on topics such as effectively managing stress, an information section with articles for students and a school and community resources page.
Roehrich and her classmates were one of 17 student groups in North Dakota that received funding through North Dakota first lady Kathryn Burgum's Youth Ending Stigma Challenge — a program that awarded up to $1,000 to student-led projects aimed at getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction.
Burgum visited Century on Wednesday for the website launch and talked with Roehrich and other students about her goal to include youth in her platform on addiction and mental health.
"Youth want to be the advocates," Burgum said. "They have so much passion around advocacy, and I was hoping they could direct some of that advocacy to eliminate stigma and take a leadership role in that."
Roehrich and other students hung up signs in the school on Wednesday with QR codes students can scan to take them directly to the CHS Corner website. Only students and teachers with a school email can access the site.
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Students also may submit questions for the website, which other students post their answers online.
"In a world of information, where there's information everywhere, ciphering through it is very difficult, so now they have a one-stop access for all kinds of information," said Laurie Foerderer, who teaches the leadership class.
Foerderer said she hopes future students in her leadership class will sustain the website.
"We're going to keep this going as long as it stays relevant," she said.
Burgum also has visited other schools that received grants through the YES Challenge, and she said she's also taking the opportunity to ask schools about what mental health and addiction resources they have available.
On Wednesday, Burgum was told about the four counselors and full-time social worker at Century. Assistant principal Sharon Espeland also told Burgum about a new "transition center," or an alternative room in the school where students with anxiety can go and do school work.
Espeland also said they started contracting with a licensed psychologist this year, who comes into the school one day a week to work with students.
Burgum said Wednesday she's supportive of additional funding for behavioral health services in schools.
"I would be a huge proponent of having more behavioral health (resources), and how do we get the funding to make that happen in schools, or redirect funding?" she said.
Burgum also said she plans to continue youth engagement, though funding for the YES Challenge was only for this school year. She said this summer she'll discuss whether to continue the program or similar initiatives next year.
(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)
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