Tech Extends SEL Days, Starts New Initiatives Aiming to Help Students’ Mental Health


Kiran Yeh and Samiya Shamsur

As students return from the COVID lockdown, many fear a mental health crisis awaits them. Rates of anxiety and depression have increased as a result of the pandemic, and in response, administrators from the Department of Education and Brooklyn Tech are preparing to help students address mental health concerns.

Mr. Ventura, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services at Brooklyn Tech, has planned to continue social-emotional learning (SEL) days for in-person instruction in anticipation of the new wave of stress caused by the adjustment back to normal routines, schoolwork, and social interactions this year

SEL days are planned to occur monthly throughout the year, each of which will include a series of engaging activities curated by different subject departments. Ventura hopes that SEL days will give students a break from the stress of school, as they did the previous school year. 

Approximately 83% of the student population completed a survey after last year’s SEL days to provide the school with feedback, which was mostly positive. “I enjoyed SEL days because it was nice to have a break from homework and the stress that comes along with it. In the end, it was just better than school,” Eliza Gifford-Powell (‘24) explained. 

Critics argue that SEL days were not effective in assisting students’ mental health needs. “I guess [SEL days] help, but not that much. It just felt like another assignment,” Ashton Matthews ’23, said. Others went as far as skipping SEL days entirely and lied on the attendance form. 

Ventura clarified that SEL days are intended to help mental health struggles students face, but do not necessarily serve as a cure. “Social-emotional learning and mental health are distant relatives,” he said. 

Social worker Ms. Martini expanded: “SEL days may not be directly addressing the mental health concerns, but the kids were getting a break [last year]. They were getting a response that what they said mattered, and that helps kids’ mental health; to be heard and listened to.” 

In addition to SEL days, Tech provides students with a myriad of support systems. “The majority of students do not know the amount of resources we have,” Martini said. She mentioned that students have the opportunity to be matched with a school social work intern to meet during lunch weekly. Anyone interested can complete a referral form with a guidance counselor to participate. “It’s basically free therapy!” Martini added. 

Mental health-related support groups will also be accessible to all students. These include therapeutic lunch sessions, a “Just Breathe” group addressing mindfulness, a support group for seniors to talk about college-related stress, and a peer-led group that will address the stress of transitioning back to school.

All Freshmen and Sophomores are also enrolled in an advisory class focused on helping underclassmen navigate the complexity of student life at Tech. Traditionally, the advisory class was exclusively for freshmen, but Principal Newman extended the course to this year’s sophomore class, as many are entering the building for the first time this fall. 

For the first time in Brooklyn Tech history, ninth and tenth graders have access to three adults to support and advocate for them: a social worker, a guidance counselor, and an advisory teacher. While students continue to fight off the stress that accompanies attending Tech, faculty and concerned students have started initiatives to serve students’ needs.

“I would really like to express something to every student,” Mr. Ventura said. “The door is always open here at Brooklyn Tech.”