Coming Together

May 1’s De-Stress event exceeded expectations


Sarah Downs

Brianna Reddick (10) and Rylee Peanick (10) meet Blue, one of the therapy dogs at the De-Stress Event.

Lizzie Kayser, Reporter

Jackson Martin wasn’t expecting more than 50 people to come to the De-Stress event on May 1. In the end, nearly 200 students attended.

“That still shocks me,” Martin said.

Martin, a freshman, is one of the student leaders in Come Together, Liberty’s mental health awareness initiative, who started planning their first De-Stress Event at the beginning of the school year as way unwind before finals and exams. Though most people were drawn in by the event’s therapy dogs, they were met by a variety of booths and activities, including yoga, splatter paint, kinetic sand, and theater games. Free baked goods and cotton candy were available, as well as Kona Ice at an additional charge.

“It was a little bit different [than I expected],” sophomore Sophia Whalley, who attended the event, said. “I liked the fact that there were a lot of other booths there.”  

Come Together is ran by both its sponsors, Ms. Rustemeyer, Mr. Eversole, Mrs. Wooten and Ms. Gerringer, and its student leaders. Senior Marissa Pukala-Whitaker was in charge of the De-Stress event. In order to create such a large event, Pukala-Whitaker connected with clubs, like Educators Rising and drama club, and local businesses to manage the booths. Students in Come Together planned what types of activities would be present at the event in hopes that they would.

“Not only myself, but a lot of people put a lot of hard work and dedication into this event,” Pukala-Whitaker said. “We wanted to make the event fun for other students while also allowing an opportunity for students to be educated on ways that they can take care of their own stress when it comes to finals week or in everyday life.”

The idea for Come Together emerged last year, long before May 1st’s event.  

“A few students approached the counselor with ideas for a student leadership club focused on mental health and suicide prevention,” Ms. Rustemeyer said. “They wanted to do something to make a difference for their peers.”

Sponsors advertised to recruit leaders, and soon a small group of students, many closely affected by mental illness, answered the call. Their first year was dedicated to planning what the club would be and how they would achieve their goal of destigmatizing mental illness. After a year of discussion and deliberation, they have begun holding open meetings where students can learn and talk about mental health and mental illness.

They also expressed interest in holding an event to help ease stresses before AP testing, EOCs, and final exams. This began as “Sunset at the Stadium”, a yoga session to be held on the football field during sunset. Along with this, they wanted to have other activities dedicated to mental health; however, there wasn’t enough time to put all of their ideas action.  With more leaders and time to plan this year, “Sunset at the Stadium” evolved into the successful De-Stress event.

Leaders like Pukala-Whittaker and Martin were ecstatic to see their event getting so much traction and the happiness it sparked for a diverse group of students. 

“It showed students that not only should they take time to de-stress and take a break, but also to value their mental health as a whole,” Pukala-Whittaker said. “We as students are under a lot of stress both in and outside of school and we forget that we need to take time for ourselves every now and then.”

Most of all, Come Together wants to have a positive impact on the school, whether it be de-stressing for finals or knowing that it’s okay to get help with mental illness. The De-Stress Event’s success has left the growing club with a sense of optimism. As she faces her senior year, Pukala-Whitaker firmly believes Come Together is on their way to achieving this goal.

“I believe that we have a strong message that we have to share with not just our school, but with the community,” Pukala-Whitaker said. “I look forward to seeing what members of Come Together are going to do in the near future.”

If you are interested in becoming a part of Come Together, contact Ms. Rustemeyer, Mrs. Gerringer, or Mr. Eversole for more information.