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“Zen Den” Offers Mental Support for Students at Alcona High School

The Zen Den represents a safe space for students to utilize in their time of need. Funds through the Dana Marie Suicide Awareness Organization made this space possible.

“This is something that I wanted to do since my daughter committed suicide in 2002,” said Julie Cole. “I wanted to maybe help one person have a better day or a better outlook– a safe place to go to, and we made it happen.”

From annual fundraising events, to live auctions, and now, the Zen Den Project, she continues to honor the life of her daughter, Dana, and support the students in her community.

The Zen Den is crucial for students like Luke Byce who expressed his need for a safe space this past year. “When my dad died, I didn’t have anywhere to go” he said. He takes comfort in knowing that students like him can have a hideaway when they need it most. “If they do have a problem like me, they won’t run away from it. They won’t skip school. They can just sit back and work on their stuff quietly.”

Mental health resources are readily available at Alcona Community School. “I hope this represents how much we care about students and how we acknowledge the suffering that they are going through,” said Christie Thomas, Alcona High School principal. “I hope it shows that we are on their side and we are there supporting them. There is always someone willing to help them make a better life. Suicide is not the answer.”