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A new garden adjacent to an existing natural area on Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart’s 41-acre campus in Lake Forest provides students an additional opportunity to get away from it all and pause to reflect. The Prayer Garden, located just outside the school’s art room, was created by senior Mia Ruck as part of her work to achieve a Girl Scout Gold Award.
Ruck says she designed every garden aspect to provide a small, comforting sanctuary away from everyday life’s common stressors. “Let Mother Nature do her work,” as she puts it. Her project is a tangible example of Sacred Heart Goal III: “a social awareness which impels to action.”
In this case, the social awareness prompting Ruck’s action was her deep concern about all the pressures teens face these days that can lead to such things as depression and even suicide. “Studies prove the more time someone spends outdoors immersed in nature, the more relaxed and calm that person becomes,” she says. “While only a temporary fix to the growing epidemic of mental health challenges teens can face, I hope this garden takes a first step toward promoting a wider social awareness within our community.”
Dr. Meg Kincaid, Woodlands Academy’s school psychologist, said it all began with Mia’s vision of creating a beautiful space on campus where students could spend quiet time with nature to meditate, pray and de-stress. “She saw her project through to completion, overcoming obstacles, and persisting to achieve her goal,” Kincaid added. “Her creation reflects Mia’s beliefs in the importance of promoting mental health and the beneficial impact that nature and prayer can have on our well-being.”
The Prayer Garden consists of a bench and a mailbox on either side of a rock garden featuring a pattern of carefully hand-painted stones in the middle of it. Ruck says she painted each one keeping in mind positivity, kindness, nature and love. Inside the mailbox, visitors will find a greeting card urging them to take an enclosed meditation or deep-breathing guide, an I-Spy game, or a pack of mindfulness cards – then sit back on the bench and relax.
Oh, and considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ruck’s greeting card concludes with a reminder to please use the hand sanitizer that also can be found in the Prayer Garden’s mailbox.
She also wishes to thank senior classmates Hanna Bryce, Hailey Denton, Nora Quigley and Natalie Williams for their help in transforming her vision into reality.
Founded in 1858, Woodlands Academy is an independent Catholic college preparatory day and boarding high school for young women. It’s part of a worldwide network of Sacred Heart Schools that spans the United States and 40 other countries. A nonprofit, Woodlands Academy’s identity is rooted in Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat’s desire to inspire young hearts and minds to excel, to lead lives of integrity and to serve. For more information about Woodlands Academy, please visit www.woodlandsacademy.org
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