Don't call it a safe space: AS moves to make Stress Free Zone in Cayton Center

Hectic schedules, personal issues, complex courses, demanding jobs, daily pressures, and the struggle to balance them all. After speaking with students, SMC's Director of Community Relations Aicha Conde of the Associated Students (AS) Board of Directors noticed there was a need for a place on campus where students could relax. After final approval for initial funds totaling $225 at the AS board meeting on Monday, March 7, the idea has now become a work in progress aiming to create a designated area affectionately called The Stress Free Zone. The Stress Free Zone will be located in southeast corner of the Cayton Center on the main campus of SMC.

“I wanted students to have a place where they can go and relax, read, and be inspired from one another,” said Conde. The Stress Free Zone will feature powered candles, bean bag chairs, a "stress buster" desktop punching ball, self-help books, and a hard cover public journal. The public journal will have differently labeled tabs covering topics like love, life, school, dreams, and goals. Students are encouraged to open up and write about whatever is on their minds. Students are also encouraged to read others student’s journal entries and struggles they have shared so they can be inspired and empowered.

“What I hope the public journal will do is let students know that they are not alone,” said Conde.

Conde, a psychology major, has been at SMC for 2 years. “I try to create engagement programs for students to be able to have active discussions with their peers,” said Conde about her role on AS.

One of those initiatives, “Let’s Talk,” is held at the Cayton Center four times each semester. Topics include highly controversial movements such as Black Lives Matter and bullying that occurs after high school.

“You choose uncomfortable topics such as race, cultural appropriation, etc. The goal," Conde said, "is for students to have direct contact with their peers and to be confronted with different viewpoints in order for them to expand the way they see the world and life."

Conde is also developing a Gender Equity Resource Center that will serve to ensure gender equality for every student on campus. The AS board originally approved a measure to support the center publicly on the Monday, Feb. 29 board meeting, and the AS board is hosting a series of town hall meetings with students to discuss the proposed plan.

As far the “Stress Free Zone,” it is expected to be open before the current semester ends.