Rebekah Shyne dreamed about an innovative walk-in center for mental health care, serving middle school students. A few years ago, she thought her proposal was going nowhere, but then came COVID-19 and a new awareness of student needs.
A friend contacted Rebekah and told her about a new freshman program to help with emotional wellness. Would she be interested?
“And I was like, ‘Oh, for sure I would!’” Rebekah says. And because the school hadn’t developed a formal description, she could start by designing the program, which started in August 2021.
Looking back now, she understands how her experience led to this moment. After graduating from Hope College in 2006, she taught in Honduras for two years and developed a passion for mental health care. Returning to Michigan, she continued teaching and earned a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. When COVID-19 hit, she knew that mental health was going to be crucial.[/vc_column_text]
“The money that people are using to support, that’s really exciting and that can only be God. And even just a vision for the program itself is definitely a God thing.”
Rebekah’s day is filled with preparations, sessions, and walk-ins. Walk-in students can pick up a free snack or hygiene items, then sit down for a while, or even play a game with a life lesson attached. Sometimes Rebekah just invites the students to talk with each other, since that’s a skill that they’ve lost now with COVID-19. Even just playing Uno together helps students make connections with their peers.
“One thing I really think that they appreciate is having someone to listen,” Rebekah says. “One of the questions on the intake form is ‘Why are you coming to see me?’ And they’re just like, ‘I just need someone to talk to.’”
Acknowledging the limits of bringing faith into the classroom, Rebekah shows her students God’s love in action by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
“I know that Jesus calls us to be there for people, to walk alongside them in their troubles, and this gives me that opportunity,” she says. “I have a prayer plant that’s in the classroom, so when I’m watering them or when I’m thinking about my students, I take them to God. Nobody can stop you from doing that part.”
JESUS CALLS US TO BE THERE FOR PEOPLE, TO WALK ALONGSIDE THEM IN THEIR TROUBLES.
Rebekah finds the same opportunities as she serves on Grace’s board of directors, “checking in on the pulse of the university,” as she puts it.
“I will often ask about the overall feel or vibe of the university to see how students are doing mentally and emotionally,” she says, and during COVID-19 found herself asking the same questions of fellow board members. “And I believe that it is important for the faculty and staff’s mental health to be supported as well. I believe my role is to help start those conversations.”
Written by: Aubrey Kyle ’19. Aubrey works in a range of print and visual media, creative projects, and ministries in the Midwest.