An eighth-grader from Holy Angels School donated more than $9,000 to Saint Mark’s High School to support a lounge dedicated to mental health support.
Over the course of eight months, Joshua Sheppard raised the money to donate to Sean’s Room, an extension of Sean’s House, a mental health center in Newark that serves 14- to 22-year-olds.
The room was opened at Saint Mark’s in March.
Both are named for Sean Locke, a former student at Saint Mark’s whose 2018 suicide led to a movement to help other youth cope, with his father, Chris Locke, starting the organization.
His father said it being 9/11 fits into one of the foundation’s goals of bringing the best out of people.
“On this date, 22 years ago, we really saw the worst of humanity,” he said, “but we also saw the best of humanity.”
The signed check was for $9,111.13
Sean’s father, tearing up, also shared something that he said came down from above.
The last four digits of the donation are “11.13.” and he said 1,113 people have visited Sean’s Room.
The space is a former classroom converted into a lounge where students can relax, ask questions and learn about mental health.
It is open two days a week for a few hours, and is staffed by University of Delaware specialists.
According to the SL24:Unlocke the Light Foundation, which runs Sean’s House and Sean’s Room, more than 35 million people in America suffer from depression.
Sean’s House has helped more than 18,000 Delawareans get the mental health treatment and support they need.
Sheppard raised the money through auctions for gift baskets and Phillies tickets, counting contests and a GoFundMe.
“I hope this money helps capture SL:24’s goal to remove the stigma of depression and to make resources available to all Saint Mark students,” he said.
He said raising the money felt important to him and he feels fulfilled knowing that it will help struggling people, especially those that are young and bottling up their emotions.
“Through this process, I learned that there’s bad things that can happen in the world sometimes,” he said, “but there’s good people and things we can do to help those struggling.”
Students have used the room as a decompressor, even if they aren’t taking advantage of the therapy sessions offered by the UD workers, said Meghan Kirker, a senior at Saint Mark’s who is president of the Peace of Mind Club, which also focuses on mental health support.
“People will always come in here just to hang out and get a breath of fresh air,” she said. “It’s just totally different from a normal classroom, and if you’re in study hall, they tell us we have to be quiet, so students come here and just feel like they can breathe.”
Kirker hasn’t taken advantage of the services, but said she frequents Sean’s Room just to relax and take a step back from a stressful day.
Sheppard’s donation will help support operations of the SL:24 Foundation, which could include food and drinks for the students, expanding programming, adding furniture and more.
Saint Mark’s President Tom Fertal said his end goal is to have Sean’s Room open for students “all day, everyday,” rather than limiting it to two days a week.
“SL:24 has been part of our fabric since its inception, so this is just another extension,” he said. “As the school leader, I’m very comfortable today that we’re in a good place. Talk about breaking down the stigma of mental health, we’ve broken that down.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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