Teen creates safe room at local school to help students dealing with trauma

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — Trauma impacts people differently, especially when you are talking about children.

So, what do you do when a child is in need during school?

Cierra Guest found there weren’t a lot of options for her after the death of her sister.

Inside Woodland Hills High School, on the second floor, lies a safe space.

“When I was sitting in here, I could feel the calmness, I could feel just both of them in here their creativity,” said Barbie Sampson, who lost her daughter Jasmine to gun violence.

Sampson has felt immeasurable pain. Losing her oldest daughter Jasmine to gun violence didn’t just rock her world, but her other daughter’s as well.

“I lost my sister in 2021. I dropped out of school the rest of the year. Came back in August, tried to get my education as an upcoming junior. I had a mental breakdown, and I was kind of lost,” said Guest, the creator of the Resilience Room.

Unwilling to give up on herself, Guest sought an escape by creating a space for students just like her.

“She could see that when she was triggered in school, there was no one or anything to help her be resilient to finish her day,” said Cathy Welsh, who lost her son to gun violence.

Each element and each color were hand-picked and designed by Guest with tranquility in mind. The Resilience Room is open to anyone at any point in the school day.

“These seven stations were intentionally chosen to, within seven to twelve minutes, work with the right side of the brain to take fear away, anxiety away, depression... to really put your mind in a better space, so that you can finish your day strong,” said Welsh.

And it appears to be working, with 150 students visiting the room in just one semester. The district is now expanding the project with a second room at the junior high.

“I lived it, my children lived it and it’s true. They need it. This should be in every high school in the Mon Valley region I feel, because we are all experiencing these things,” Welsh said.

Starting this year there will be an onsite clinic focusing on mental health support with counselors thanks to a grant partnership for the next five years with Carlow University.

“The beautiful thing about that is if this room isn’t enough for them, then there will be professionals to see that and be that bridge to even more support outside of school,” Welsh said.

In a district with 116 families impacted by gun violence, walking in this space shows you that you aren’t alone.

“It makes me proud knowing that my daughter changed lives of some students that needed help,” Sampson said.

With tears in her eyes, Sampson beamed with pride knowing both of her daughters will continue to impact future generations to come.

“I’m proud to say I did this in honor of her and it gives something for her to forever live on,” Guest said.

While Guest closes the door on her high school career, she passes the room and newfound strength on to her younger brother.

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