There’s a toe-tapping reason why students, like 10-year-old Evi, look so forward to Thursdays at Leesburg Elementary School in Loudoun County.
“It just makes you feel happy and relieved from stress," says the fifth grade student.
“It has been the greatest addition to our building," adds Principal Shawn Lacey.
Lacey is referring to Jordan Marshall, a music therapist at A Place To Be in nearby Middleburg.
“They feel lonely. We’ve talked a lot about the lack of connection they’ve had over the last year," says Marshall.
Once a week, in select classrooms, Marshall helps children learn how to better understand and manage the anxiety and apprehension forced upon them for the past two long years by the pandemic.
“And some of the first things they told me were ‘I just want to live in a world where I can see my friends faces again,'" Marshall said.
Loudoun Education Foundation Executive Director Danielle Nadler came up with this idea, securing funding from Inova Loudoun Hospital.
“Each school is touching about 200 students impacted by the program each week. It’s almost like a ripple effect," Nadler said.
Hospital President Susan Carroll tells 7News it’s time to lift the veil of shame associated with talking about our children’s mental health.
“What we really believe at Inova is that we are the guardians of the community’s health," she said. "This is a need we see in our community, so can we be a catalyst?”
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This pilot program has been so successful, with upticks in attendance and mood, efforts are already underway to secure more funding to bring this program to more schools.
“Life changing. It’s giving them the tools to understand that as a child I can have emotions," Lacey added.
“I think that one of the most valuable things is giving them the space to talk and to learn about their emotions and making it ok. We can start now and we can talk about anxiety now as second graders so they know how to deal with it when they go on with the rest of their lives," adds Marshall.