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Students In McCall, Idaho’s Last Hybrid District, Focus on “Hope” In Mental Wellness Fundraising Effort

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Jennifer Andrew Caple
Left to right: Mckeely Meske, Jennifer Andrew Caple and Jaeda Moyer

More than a year after the pandemic shifted Idaho public education to an at-home experience, nearly all of Gem State students have returned to in-person instruction. In fact, the McCall-Donnelly School District remains the only school district in Idaho that is not offering full in-person instruction.

Logo emblazoned on hoodies, crewnecks and facemasks, designed by McCall-Donnelly High School students
Jennifer Andrew Caple
Logo emblazoned on hoodies, crewnecks and facemasks, designed by McCall-Donnelly High School students

“Everybody is trying their best,” said Jennifer Andrew Caple, private counselor who works with many McCall families and youth. “And then there’s just a sense of kind of feeling lost and trying to find purpose in their lives.”

Two students at McCall-Donnelly High School, as part of their senior project, have decided to help some families find that purpose.

With the word “hope” emblazoned on hoodies, crewnecks and face masks, the two students are generating funds to supplement out-of-pocket expenses for family or individual counseling.

The three visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the fundraising campaign and how “hope” is the centerpiece of that effort.

Interested in supporting the effort? Send an email to jjsparkle16@gmail.com, moyerj@mdsd.org or elevate208counseling@gmail.com

“It's very easy for people to fall into isolation or feeling like they are alone. And we just want to reinforce the fact that they're not alone and that there's hope.”
Jennifer Andrew Caple

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. good morning. I'm George Prentice. It has been a challenging school year across Idaho with at-home…then long-distance learning… then hybrid instruction, then back home. And while most Idaho school districts have brought their students back into the classroom full-time, the McCall Donnelly School District is now Idaho's last hybrid district. Just a few weeks ago, the school board decided to remain in the hybrid schedule through the end of the school year. So, you can imagine the extraordinary challenges for educators, parents and, above all, students. We're going to talk a bit about that… and more. Jennifer Andrew Caple is here- clinical social worker in the McCall area. Jennifer, every report that I've seen is that McCall has been hit pretty hard by the pandemic. Can you weigh in, through your professional lens, and give us a sense of how families in general and students in particular are weathering the pandemic?

JENNIFER CAPLE: I worked for St. Luke's for about 18 years as a social worker, and now I have a private practice where I do see a lot of kids, families, and parents who are trying to work their way through these challenges. I'd say the biggest challenge and the most consistent challenge I'm seeing this past year is kids and parents who haven't typically reached out for counseling or life coaching or support… just kind of hit a wall, in that they're not just doing their typical, traditional roles, but we've got kids who are out of sports last year who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in their lives. So that increases depression and anxiety. And then with parents in particular having to put on a teacher hat as well as the parent hat as well as a friend. So, really everybody is trying their best, but just kind of spinning their wheels and needing the extra professional support. And then there’s just a sense of kind of feeling lost and trying to find purpose in their lives, which can be challenging in itself as an adult. And then you add that to a teenager or a middle school or an elementary kid and it just ups the ante.

PRENTICE: Jennifer, we have a couple of young women who have joined us. Can you introduce us?

CAPLE: We've got a couple of seniors doing their senior project. We've got Mckeely Meske, who's a senior, and Jaeda Moyer, who's also a senior here at McCall Donnelly High School.

PRENTICE: Good morning to you both.

MCKEELY MESKE: Good morning.

JAEDA MOYER: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Tell me about this rather impressive senior project that the two of you are working on. Who wants to tell me about that?

MOYER: We're raising mental health awareness in the community by selling masks, crews necks, and hoodies’ and designing a logo that will be printed on those to enforce the idea that people aren't alone, especially in this time during the pandemic,

PRENTICE: A senior project is required for graduation. That said, this seems to transcend the fact that it's a requirement. Mckeely, maybe you can tell me where's the inspiration from this? Where did this idea come from?

Hoodie designed by McCall-Donnelly High School seniors
Jennifer Andrew Caple
Hoodie designed by McCall-Donnelly High School seniors

MESKE: Jaeda and I have both had our own experiences with mental health as a whole, not only through the pandemic, but through our lives. And we've been around a lot of friends and family who have experienced their own mental health journey. And it's kind of a conversation that we talked about. I guess it's a big goal of ours to make people feel like they're not alone. And especially over the last year, with everything that's going on, it's very easy for people to fall into isolation or feeling like they are alone. And we just want to reinforce the fact that they’re not alone and that there's hope, which is the word in our logo on the sweatshirts and everything.

PRENTICE: So, is it your sense that a fair amount of your peers have experienced a sense of loss… which is to say a loss of connection?

MOYER: Yeah, I've noticed that in a lot of my friends. Some of them suffered through anxiety and depression and a couple of them have made it over the pandemic. Their levels of anxiety and depression have increased. There's just this general feeling that they don't have a sense of self-worth and there's just a lack of support and resources for them to express all their emotions and get the help that they need.

PRENTICE: Mckelly, where will the funds go?

MESKE: We’re putting all the funds to help pay for people who need counseling and to pay for some sessions for people so they have access to the help they need.

PRENTICE: Ok Jaeda, tell me what you're selling here and paint me a word picture of what they look like.

MOYER: So, we designed a logo that is a simple bouquet of flowers tied around a green ribbon and above it there's a word: hope. And we're going to print these in the small corners of hoodies and crew necks and then on the sides of face masks.

PRENTICE: Jaeda, how can people purchase these?

MOYER: Right now, we're just taking personal orders so they can just contact me or Mckeely.

PRENTICE: Well, how about this? We’ll provide a link attached to this story?
(Interested in supporting the effort? Send an email to jjsparkle16@gmail.com, moyerj@mdsd.org or elevate208counseling@gmail.com)

MESKE: Great.

PRENTICE: Jennifer, I'm particularly impressed by these young women and their level of engagement.

CAPLE: It's been a really difficult year and they can choose anything for their senior project. And so, I was really excited when they reached out to me and were interested in teen and mental health awareness for our community and, particularly, with their funding. Their goal is to donate so that people can access free counseling, which is going to be huge, because that can be one of our barriers in this small community. So, I'm really proud of them for choosing this as their project.

PRENTICE: And again, these funds will supplement that? Or fill in that gap through St. Luke's in McCall?

CAPLE: So, it's actually the hospital auxiliary that gives us a donation. It's called the Children's Community Medical Fund. And so, the St. Luke's thrift store raises money and donates what they have available. They really suffered last year with the pandemic. So, we got quite a bit reduced this year. And so therefore, we can't serve as many people. The goal is to be able to serve kids regardless… if they can't afford out of pocket expenses or if they're uninsured. And so, by providing this, it will increase the amount of sessions and clients that we can serve through this community resource.

PRENTICE: So, Mckeely, Jaeda…we're going to put a link on our website. They are Jennifer Caple and Mckeely Meske and Jaeda Moyer. Best of luck in this campaign and everything that you have in front of you. And thanks for giving us some time today.

MESKE: Awesome, thank you so much for having us.

CAPLE: Thanks, George. Appreciate you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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