Rearranged sofas, colorful blankets, and a device-free policy transformed the Underwood Room last Thursday. Students had the opportunity to play with coloring books, Play-Doh, and destressing fidget toys, as well as meditate with mindfulness cards. Ruby Koo ’23, with the aid of faculty advisor Nicole Jeter, Director of Wellness and Prevention Education, organized the first Pop-Up Relaxation Room on September 15 to shed light on mental health awareness, emphasizing the importance of slowing down during the fast-paced school year.
Acknowledging the various consequential mental health challenges of Covid-19, Koo aimed to create a relaxing space for students to unwind and destress. Funded by an Abbot Grant and the Sykes Mental Health Team, the relaxation room can be used to sleep, practice mindfulness, or simply hang out with friends.
“My main inspiration was noticing the difficult times my friends and the Andover community were going through during the pandemic. And after, I decided to make this place for people to just come and relax, to destress. It’s a pop-up room, it’s not just one space and it will change. For the supplies, I used beanbags, blankets, Play-Doh, and little destressor items. We applied for the Abbot Grant and received money to buy those items,” said Koo.
Andrew Massicotte ’25 enjoyed his time in the relaxation room and supports Koo’s positive initiative on student mental health. Although few students showed up last week due to the 50-minute window of the pop-up, Massicotte appreciated the opportunity and hopes to see the project continue.
“The relaxation rooms are a good resource but are only as helpful as they are used by the students. I was a little shocked to see a few students taking advantage of the space. I enjoyed this lack of students, a feature that would likely not translate into a permanent iteration of the room. I think that providing students with a space to destress will have a positive impact on the mental health of the community,” wrote Massicotte in an email to The Phillipian.
Following the turnout of last week’s pop-up, Koo envisions a permanent relaxation room on campus. Koo believes that a student-run mental health program could help establish clearer mental health policies and related courses of action on campus.
“One thing I took away from yesterday’s experience was that it’s better to open during either protected time or a period where most of the students don’t have classes or other priorities. Around 15 students came yesterday. It was nice to see everyone truly working on themselves and not worrying about anything. It might be possible in the future, but I think it’s difficult to really dedicate the pop-up room to one place. We will definitely give it a try,” said Koo.
Arthur Wu ’25 agreed with Massicotte’s sentiment. Recognizing Andover students’ busy routine, he appreciated the opportunity to distance from the calamity.
“I actually really enjoyed the pop-up room because it was just really calming and fun. I liked the tiny squishies and I also really liked the bean bags they put down because I could just lie down and relax. I feel like this is definitely going to be great for Andover students because it’s just a relaxing time where you don’t have to constantly look at your phone or be thinking about something in particular. This is especially great for the Andover community because sometimes students can get a lot of pressure and just need to relieve some stress…. It can be improved by setting up more comfy chairs because there were only a few in total,” wrote Wu in an email to The Phillipian.
Jeter applauded Koo’s work and progress throughout their partnership. Over the summer, the two worked together on layout design and purchasing supplies for the room. Moving forward, they hope to set up more advertisements around campus to attract a greater number of students.
Jeter said, “I was very impressed with her sense of initiative and leadership. She would reach out to me to review her work and give her opinions on items she would like to order, and it was all student-run. I was only there to support her. She was willing to ask questions, and she was also open to changing things and really wanted it to be a student centered program. We would also want even more advertisements. Putting up flyers everywhere, in the bathroom, on the windows, and more…. But I loved seeing students there, and everyone that was in there seemed like they were more relaxed after walking out.”