Shionda Nickerson guides Menlo-Atherton High School students as a mental health support specialist

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on April 28, 2020

Emailed InMenlo contributing photographer Lena Kalotihos, who is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School:  “I am really impressed with the efforts of our mental health and wellness staff at M-A. Not only are they continuously offering appointments with school counselors, but have released a Distance Learning Wellness Packet and are beginning to provide daily ‘connection groups’ to students facilitated by a mental health professional.

“I think they deserve some  recognition. These people aren’t exactly ‘frontline workers,’ but they are still working hard to make sure that our community is staying safe and well during these challenging times. Shionda Nickerson is a ‘mental health support specialist.’  It’s her first year at M-A — and this is a first time position at M-A , too.”

We’re all about shining the spotlight on unsung heroes during these shelter-in-place days, so we caught up with Shionda by phone a few days later. She explained that she’d been working at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in a demanding job while also caring for a young foster child she hopes to adopt. When she saw the position at M-A open up, she jumped at it, given that she lives just 10 minutes from the high school.

She explained that there’s a mental health support specialist at every high school in the Sequoia Union district and they meet regularly every two weeks to share resources and ideas.

“We have such a diverse population at M-A,” Shionda said.  “Some students  are feeling so overwhelmed they aren’t able to function. They’re worried about grades and  sports eligibility.

“Some are missing their friends and are feeling isolated. Then there are those worried about real life stuff like food, where are they going to live, with the parents losing their jobs.

“It’s been a slow ramp up. We started connection groups through Zoom. Students can pop in and talk. Sessions so far have been well attended and we are guessing we’ll get busier as time goes on.

“I have learned that so many people I work with who are amazing! And that kids are resilient. I’ve learned to be flexible, to do what you have to do to support the student. You’ve got to think outside the box. It’s ok to try and fail. Nobody has the answers.”

Photo courtesy of Shionda Nickerson


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