First-Year Student Ava Latham Leaves Former High School Peers a Legacy
During Ava Latham’s childhood, the first-year nursing student developed a love for helping people. Latham learned the importance of caregiving from several family members who have chosen nursing as a profession.
So, it came naturally for Latham, of Montville Township, Ohio, to help her peers deal with the difficulties they may be having during the school day. During her senior year, Latham created a sensory room at Highland High School in Medina County so that students can go there to relax and decompress during difficult times.
Latham’s project was so significant that she garnered a coveted Gold Award from Girl Scouts, the organization’s highest honor and the pinnacle of achievements for Latham, who has been a member since the second grade.
“When I was growing up there were a lot of nurses in my family,” Latham said. “So they kind of directed me on that path. But then I just love taking care of people and making people happy and I love working with kids, so the goal is for me to be a (pediatric) nurse.”
Latham thought of the sensory room in 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic. She came across an article about a sensory room at another Northeast Ohio high school when she was working on her Gold Award.
“I just like fell in love with the idea," she said. "And I felt like this would be so great at any high school, so I knew I wanted to do my Gold Award. It was kind of perfect timing. And then that's kind of how the idea came to be.”
Latham worked on the room until it was ready to open in January 2022.
The room is equipped with a big comfortable sofa, soft throws and pillows. Rows of cabinets hold construction paper and pens, crayons, pencils and other craft items. Mental health and community resources, such as names of area mental health professionals and books, are posted on a bulletin board in the room.
“Anytime a student would feel overwhelmed, they could go to the guidance office and if needed they could be referred to the sensory room,” Latham said. “Say if the person needed to go to a safe room or somewhere where they could decompress or relax for a little while the guidance office would send them there and have a designated amount of time for them to be in there.”
Latham has moved on to college and now she is a member of the Student Nursing Association, but her legacy lives on at Highland High School. She has been delighted to hear that students continue to get benefits from the sensory room she created.
“Recently I got a text from one of my neighbors and she told me how her daughter's friend was saying that it has really helped her relax when she needs to take a break from the school day,” Latham said.