LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Two UNLV alumni teamed up to create a new emotional support program for Las Vegas schools.
Marcus Howard and Vedant Peris both have teaching backgrounds- Howard is a former teacher and Peris is a 6th grade ELA teacher at Mack Middle School. They know first-hand how mental health is a growing problem for kids and teens, something made worse by the pandemic.
Peris says depression, anxiety and trauma can lead to trouble in the classroom, but the answer is usually disciplinary rather than rehabilitative.
“A lot of what teachers and some administrators think of as behavior challenges are really just social-emotional regulation challenges,” Peris added.
Aloe ROSA and Aloe VR are tools meant to transform the way schools tackle mental health issues in the classroom.
Here’s how it works: ROSA asks a student how they’re feeling, the general cause of those emotions, and how much of an impact that makes on their ability to learn and play.
ROSA will then ask a student what they need to reach their goals and feel their best. If a student needs to talk to someone, a teacher or counselor is notified.
Teachers have their own dashboard showing all students in their classroom.
“The daily data allows them to track students, see which students are in the comfort zone, watch zone and danger zone,” said Howard. “It allows them to be proactive.”
If a student logs into ROSA and says they’re not feeling well Aloe VR is there to help. Students can explore Peru through a virtual reality program, learning from animal peace guides about things like self-love and managing stress.
“Over 5,000 studies show VR can boost mental health because it’s a 360-degree view and the student is taken out of their triggering environment,” Peris said.
So far- it’s a hit with the kids.
“It’s nice to have someone I can express my feelings to outside my parents and school,” said William Hargreaves, a 5th grade student at Heard Elementary School.
“I think this is amazing to have for kids who are feeling stressed and need something to calm them down,” said Christina Bowen, also a 5th grade student at Heard Elementary School.
Howard and Peris eventually want all schools in Las Vegas to have their program, but it does come at a cost. They’re looking to pair up with non-profits to make the program more widely available.