East Grand Rapids — A record-setting donation is poised to make a significant difference in the mental health and well-being of East Grand Rapids students.
An anonymous donor and district alum has donated $1 million to the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation to establish a Mental Health and Wellness Fund that the foundation will administer for the district.
The gift is the largest individual contribution in the Foundation’s history.
District Wellness Coordinator Lauren Ahlers said the donation “will provide additional resources to help students cope with difficulties that arise throughout their academic careers and into their young adult lives.”
“We are grateful for the support of our community and the Schools Foundation,” she said. “This funding will have an immediate impact in a critical area of need for the staff and students of EGRPS. By supporting this critical work, (the district) will be able to provide direct student and staff interventions, education (and) the creation of systems of support for students in K-12.”
Ahlers’ own position of wellness coordinator was established last year after the foundation made its own $750,000, multi-year commitment to support student mental health. Besides that position, the district has used some of those funds to hire an additional social worker and introduce mental health training to give students and teachers the tools to recognize a problem before it becomes a crisis.
Pointing to the district’s stated mission of “supporting the whole child,” Ahlers said this new million-dollar donation will enable the district to continue this important work.
“Moving forward, we want to continue bolstering our social-emotional learning curriculum and providing tools for students to use to manage anxiety, depression, developing healthy relationships and other mental health challenges throughout the school day,” she said. “With this generous gift we have already begun providing professional development opportunities for staff and will continue this work moving forward.
“The wellness coordinator position will allow us to break down barriers to accessing mental health supports and increase involvement within our community.”
A Foundation representative said two additional donors, upon learning of the unprecedented donation, have already pledged $50,000 each in matching gifts to encourage community support for the new Mental Health and Wellness Fund.
“I’m grateful for all our supporters, and this alum in particular, for recognizing that our students are our greatest resource,” said Foundation Executive Director Amy Stuursma. “It’s up to us to provide students with tools and training to navigate their ever-changing, unpredictable world. That will increase self-awareness and provide strategies for navigating stress and anxiety, and forming healthy, strong relationships.”