Sister Linda has been part of the St John Bosco Arts College community for six years and supports students of all ages with their mental health and wellbeing. Having started as a support worker, Sr. Linda’s role has evolved to encompass additional responsibilities, especially after COVID-19.
Sr. Linda said: “I initially trained to be a play and creative arts therapist and I’m now training to be a creative arts counsellor which involves a bit more talk therapy within the creative arts. As I work with students from Year 7 right through to Year 11, I discovered that the older they are the more they like to talk about things.”
Based in the Laura Vicuna Centre, Sr. Linda meets the needs of individual students who need time away from their normal teaching programme. The support is based on the student’s needs and circumstances.
Sr. Linda explained: “At first, I delivered more low intervention therapeutic activities, working one-to-one or with groups, focusing on areas such as bereavement, identity and friendship issues. However, over the years it has become more of a place for therapy and since COVID-19, I’m now working with students who are higher risk.
“In addition to these sessions, I open the centre at break and lunch times for students who are more vulnerable in school or have anxiety or ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and they come and use it as a safe space.”
This vital provision does not work in isolation. Sr. Linda works closely with the pastoral team and the head of years - or pupil progress coordinators as they call them – as well as the senior leadership team and SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator).
Salesian Sisters around the world celebrated their 150th anniversary last year. Reflecting on how the Salesian Charism is embedded throughout all aspects of St John Bosco Arts College, Sr. Linda commented:
“Our Salesian spirituality is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith and the gospel values, and if you look at our new school mission statement, it’s got that right at the beginning, it’s about the faith, hope and love. For us, that is really the foundation of everything.
“Don Bosco’s way of working with young people and our Salesian approach and method of working with young people taps into the way I support students in my role. The preventive system is based on reason, religion and loving kindness - it is all about building those good relationships with students first and foremost.
Sr. Linda concluded: “His great quotation which we always say 'It is not enough to love the young; they must know that they are loved'comes through in a relationship and when you win that relationship, then they will do anything for you.
“That is the same for everyone, we all need that affirmation. We also need to find meaning and a purpose in life and that’s about the faith journey of our young people in our Catholic school today.”