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UCS teachers and counselors use art to help students cope with everyday stress

Art ExpressionsUCS teachers are painting a clear picture for students on how art can improve their mental well-being. 

Working in partnership with area youth advocacy agency KnowResolve, UCS teachers and counselors are beginning to introduce expressive art concepts to help students cope with life as a busy teenager. 

“It’s just about taking a break from the business and the stress and the mundaneness of everyday life,” said KnowResolve executive director Dennis Liegghio. “We are all under a lot of pressure and we all have very high expectations of ourselves, maybe we are prone to perfectionism or just feeling stressed. This is supposed to be the antithesis for all of that.” 

During a recent class period at Henry Ford II High School, Adrian Gjerkaj decompressed by cutting out pieces from a magazine to put together a collage that represented his life.

“It was really relaxing,” Gjerkaj said. “It is my senior year and we really have so much going on. It was great to just to be with some of my closest friends and relax. It was soothing.” 

Called the Detour project, the expressive art focus grew out of KnowResolve’s Youth Advisory Committee during the early stages of the pandemic.                                                          

Malow Junior High School 9th grader Sidney Duceatt, a new member of the advisory group, has been working with special services teacher Mary Merza to implement the program at her school.  

“I think it is hard to open up and share things about yourself, and this helps you get out of your shell,” Duceatt said. 

The program is also expanding into Henry Ford II High School, where a recent session was captured by  for the program. Students took part in the magazine collage project as well as used watercolors to fill in random designs and words they created on a blank page. 

Junior Karl Cook, who took part in the magazine collage experience, said he “loves the push” to focus on mental health through art. 

“I think art and creatively are two of the most important things for young people,” he said. 

The Detour Project and KnowResolve were recently featured in a UCS Wellness Podcast. To view the podcast, please see follow this link