Ava Seccuro, Alya Mehrtash, Nicolette Kay, cub writers
Throughout the school year, the NormanAid Center strives to help the student body with everyday struggles of school, life and adolescence. Regardless of the outwardly supportive environment, the NormanAid Center is Beverly’s best-kept secret.
Disguised as another blandly uniform bungalow, the NormanAid center is filled with colorful drawings and furniture to send a warm and nurturing message to students. The center helps to reach out to students by collaborating with the Maple Counseling Center and by sponsoring monthly initiatives to bring awareness to prevalent mental health topics. They display an array of informative and engaging merchandise that is always free of charge and available 24/7 to educate the community. It’s an oasis of positivity from the daily stresses of life, aimed to help students in any way, shape or form.
Intervention Counselor Ali Norman-Franks coordinates the monthly aid activities to reflect the center’s desire to connect with the school community to ensure that students can openly discuss their apprehensions and be optimistic about the future.
“I feel like our efforts this year in having monthly aid activities…have reminded students that there’s so many different topics that they can come into NormanAid and talk about,” Norman-Franks said. “But, it also spreads the message to students that we all go through different types of feelings [and struggles], and that they’re not alone.”
Despite the higher purpose of making the community more positive, NormanAid focuses more on the smaller objectives toward achieving good mental health.
Norman-Franks emphasizes that students should not feel ashamed by exhibiting real emotions and that the center is always open to listen to students. Additionally, she encourages students to be honest with themselves and their mental state so they can be helped to the fullest extent.
“NormanAid definitely tries to spread positivity and optimism…but [it’s] not just about spreading optimism,” Norman-Franks said. “It’s also about reminding students that it’s okay to be real, whatever your feelings are. So we don’t want to students to feel like they always have to be happy, positive or optimistic.”
If students ever need to have someone to talk to about their worries, they can go speak to one of the many available Maple counselors who are present in the center. Marriage and family therapist and Maple counselor trainee Maddie Dunton thinks the center distinctively impacts the student body.
“I think this is an incredibly unique resource…When I was in high school all I wanted was an adult who understood me or who would just even take the time to listen,” Dunton said. “The way that it is so special is the way that you can come in any time…when someone wants to ask for help, they can, and they’ll be heard.”
Junior peer counselor Candice Emrani, despite only joining the peer counseling staff this semester, claims that students often underestimate the things NormanAid is available for. She is passionate about spreading the message on what NormanAid did for her, and what it can do for the community.
“My favorite thing about working at NormanAid is just the environment…any time you walk in it’s like a breath of fresh air,” Emrani said. “So happy, so lively…just coming into the center and being welcomed by all these amazing people…it’s just a real blessing to be a part of that atmosphere.”
Students are the individuals to whom the center is dedicated to, and according to a survey of 75 students, about 87 percent agree that NormanAid positively affects the environment of the school.
Freshman Lucy Rosen, who after going only a handful of times, believes that the NormanAid Center has restored her confidence and trust in Beverly.
“NormanAid did help me become a little more optimistic. It’s just a very positive environment, and when you go there, everyone’s always very nice,” Rosen said. “Just knowing that that is there and that the school sponsors that kind of area, it just gives me more faith in this school.”
Freshman JR Visconti goes into NormanAid for weekly therapy and expounds upon the hospitable environment of the center, which helps him honestly and authentically release his feelings.
“I feel like NormanAid is a place where I can be myself. It’s a very safe atmosphere,” Visconti said. “[Mrs. Norman-Franks] is the person who really understands what you’re going through and I really appreciate having her around.”
Sophomore Gia Lana Moore appreciates the Maple counselors at the center, whom she is able to confide in when no one else is there to listen.
“Being able to vent to my Maple Counselors really helped me because when I go home, I can’t talk about those feelings to my parents because they’re the ones that cause them,” Moore said. “[Talking to people] who will actually listen to me and understand my point of view is really good.”
Whether or not the center has influenced students to be more optimistic is not through the center itself, but more by the individuals who partake in and take advantage of what the center has to offer.
“I feel more like a facilitator or this reflection of the students that I see…maybe there has been a spread of optimism and hope and joy and love [but] that’s not from me,” Dunton said. “It’s from the students…I think it’s my job to create a space for that and let it bounce off and grow so it can radiate throughout the community. I don’t think I bring that, I think that’s in here to begin with.”
For more information on NormanAid’s impact on students, click here.