Coral Gables Senior High has welcomed once again an alum who is returning to their alma mater as a staff member. Class of 2005 graduate Diana Flores is the new mental health coordinator at Gables. Visiting monthly to speak with students, teachers and staff, her main focus is teaching faculty how to manage their own mental stability and aid students if they seek out their help.
Ms. Flores began a mental health initiative called the Social and Emotional Learning After-School Roundtable. The club provides a place where students are free to talk about their issues and feelings, such as how to deal with the stress and anxiety from schoolwork and pressures at home, fear of loosing a loved one and matters that include how to prevent depression and suicide.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health awareness has grown over the past two years. Studies have shown that students have more of a negative mind-set during school post-quarantine, as opposed to before the pandemic took over. These effects are just among the various reasons Ms. Flores decided to begin hosting the monthly roundtables.
At the meeting, students can choose the topic they want to talk about themselves. Whether it be reflecting on the past month or discussing anything that has been on their mind, the ability to converse their problems is part of what makes the club such a free and open environment which students do not get access to in a regular classroom.
Each meeting is once a month after school at 2:30 p.m. The meetings often take place outside, where the students can step out of their comfort zone and feel more open. During these gatherings, the participants will complete different kinds of physical activities from yoga to something as simple as walking around the school. The goal is to get their blood circulating and have them do something outside of the ordinary.
“I am big into wellness and exercise. I think that both of them go well together, that is kind of around my lines, I like to kind of mix fitness with mental wellness,” Ms. Flores said.
Ms. Flores studied at Gables along with her other siblings some of whom have come back as staff members. Her brother in particular is Mr. Flores, the culinary arts teacher at Gables. Working side by side with his sister at their alma mater, Mr.Flores has confidence in her and in what she is doing for the students and the school.
“I think she’ll do great, she is patient, open-minded, and non-judgemental,” teacher Mr. Flores said.
Although her roundtable at Gables started this school year, Ms.Flores is no stranger to counseling. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the arts and psychology at Florida International University and a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Carlos Albizu University, Flores has since then worked with Miami-Dade County as a mental health coordinator. She also dedicates her time to working at the Therapeutic Alliance Community Mental Health Center where they offer therapy and counseling classes that help deal with anger-management, co-parenting and reunification.
Apart from the Social and Emotional Learning After-School Roundtable, Ms. Flores hopes to implement more activities and clubs for the people at Gables to work on their mental health. For instance, later this year she wants to conduct a mental health week where students can discuss with their peers and teachers different subjects about how to keep your mind healthy and in the right space.
“There’s a very high need. So hence why we definitely want to roll out as many programs and as many options out there for you students as possible,” Ms.Flores said.
Ms. Flores welcomes and encourages anyone who is interested in attending the meetings to come and join her once a month after school. From a Gables alumna to a mental health coordinator, Ms. Flores represents what being a Cavalier is all about.