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Youth Advocate Jacqueline Snell: Creating and Navigating Safe Spaces

Youth Advocate Jacqueline Snell: Creating and Navigating Safe Spaces
Photo: DepositPhotos.com

School can be a stressful environment for students. They face academic pressure, social challenges, and personal issues. Providing a safe space allows students to express their emotions, process their thoughts, and seek support when needed. It promotes emotional well-being and helps students develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Meet Jacqueline Snell, McKinley Middle School Wellness Specialist and student well-being advocate who is proactive in prioritizing student wellness. 

As the founder of the “WaterCooler Room,” a social and learning program and an innovative year-round wellness center embedded within the McKinley School of Arts in the Pasadena, CA Unified School District (PUSD), Snell has played a key role in implementing holistic development programs that cater to students’ emotional needs. 

The term “watercooler” itself often symbolizes a central meeting point or gathering spot in an office where people would traditionally gather around a watercooler, share updates, or engage in casual conversations. In modern workplaces, the concept of a watercooler room can extend beyond the physical location and encompass virtual spaces, such as online chat platforms or social media groups, where colleagues or individuals connect and chat informally.

In the WaterCooler room, students receive wholesome nonclinical support so that they can focus better in class. Jacqueline expresses that God has inspired her to listen to youth because many did not have a nana, a father, or someone to listen to them while growing up. She also wanted to build a village for people by serving their emotional well-being. 

Students have a variety of issues that cause them to be depressed, have high anxiety, and suffer from bereavement. Jacqueline’s path of emotional challenges has been converted to understanding and becoming a blessing to others. She believes she is called to use her talents, commitment, passion, and creativity to help those in need because youths are giving up and taking their lives at an alarming rate. According to reports, suicide is the second leading cause of death among U.S. adolescents and young adults. Thus, she has created a safe space designed for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 type students so no one will be excluded no matter the race, size or status. 

Jacqueline understands the ‘why’ of providing targeted support to help students navigate their emotions and find relief. By creating a supportive community, students are being heard, understood, and cared for. The goal is for students to find their truth, accept who they are, be heard, and receive resources that will empower them spiritually and intellectually.

It is crucial to create a safe space for students to take time to exhale and learn how to deal with their feelings. By acknowledging and addressing their feelings, students can develop resilience and learn effective strategies to manage stress and anxiety.

Jacqueline has created a calming space where students retreat when they need a break or time to relax. Equipped with comfortable seating, calming lighting, and resources such as books or puzzles, the WaterCooler room provides a peaceful environment for students to decompress, recharge, and share their thoughts and feelings with their peers, who can offer empathy, understanding, and advice.

Her dedication to creating a nurturing educational environment has earned her recognition and praise from students, parents, and the larger community. 

As a child, Jacqueline’s life was not the best, and she knows that the Lord’s shield has kept her safe. She lives by one of her favorite scriptures, Psalms 3:3-6, For Thou O Lord are a Shield for me, your glory and the lifter up of my head.

Adamant about being there for those who want to give up, her business and nonprofit have taken on the objective of jumping in the pool to save as many as they can. She knows what it is like to receive a second chance, which is why she dedicates her purpose to serving the youth by producing safe havens for their mental health.

By creating a safe space there are opportunities for students to develop emotional intelligence. They can learn to recognize, understand, and regulate their emotions effectively. This skill set

helps them navigate relationships, make responsible decisions, and cope with challenges in and out of the school environment.

Jacqueline continues to create a support network that extends beyond the counseling sessions, enabling students to find strength and solace in their shared experiences.

Jacqueline Snell’s commitment to student wellness exemplifies her dedication to creating a compassionate and nurturing educational environment. 

The “WaterCooler” room, whether physical or virtual, serves as a place for socializing, building relationships, sharing news, discussing current events, or simply taking a break to connect with others. It can contribute to a sense of community and foster a more relaxed and open communication environment.

Visit this website for more information.

Youth Advocate Jacqueline Snell: Creating and Navigating Safe Spaces

Photo Courtesy: Lavi Artistry


Published By: Aize Perez

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