An art therapy coloring book might seem like a fine arts or a psychology project, but for students in Dr. Kathleen Fowler’s Writing and research in the disciplines class at Surry Community College, it became a way to turn research into community service.
The purpose of the project was to engage student interest in the research process by showing them how their findings can be turned into service projects that help in their local communities. Students started by identifying their topic: teen mental health. Many teens struggle with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, unresolved trauma, and suicidal thoughts.
The research suggested the benefits of art therapy to help teens process their emotions. Based on these research findings, the students partnered with other youth groups on the SCC campus including the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Knight’s Alliance, and the Math Club, and then they developed an art therapy coloring book for local teens in crisis. The result was an 88-page collection of images that brought a smile to the face.
The students contacted local organizations that routinely help teens and young adults recovering from trauma and abuse – Crossnore Communities for Children, the Children’s Center of Surry, and the YVEDDI Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program. Representatives at each organization were eager to receive donated copies of the coloring book and crayons.
The research that the students did for this project helped them gain perspective on how many young people in their community struggle with anxiety and depression. Their hope was to create an artistic outlet to promote mental health. In the words of the student project coordinator, Alex Young, “We see your struggle, and we want to help. Someone cares about you.”
The students realized that through informed research, they had the power to create meaningful projects and carry them through to completion.
“Students can do more than just learn about a problem. They can do something to help. It was a joy for them to see people’s faces lit up when they handed them the coloring books,” Fowler said.
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