The First Lady of Virginia, Pamela Northam, accompanied Loudoun County Public Schools superintendent Scott Ziegler, assistant superintendent Asia Jones and school board members Jeff Morse and Denise Corbo on a tour of two LCPS schools Wednesday for discussions on mental health resources available to students.
Northam’s tour took her through J. Michael Lunsford Middle School and Freedom High School in Chantilly to hear about each school’s Unified Mental Health Team, which aim to provide a variety of mental health support services.
Outside Freedom High School, Northam praised the diversity of the school’s sports teams. “I was so excited to see that and to hear a young man named Luigi do so well.”
Freedom High School is one of five LCPS high schools — alongside Broad Run, Loudoun Valley, Riverside and Stone Bridge, according to the Special Olympics of Virginia website — to participate in a unified sports program, which allows student athletes with learning disabilities to train and compete alongside those without.
A senior Freedom student whose first name was given only as Luigi said the unified sports program had allowed him to engage in soccer, basketball and several other activities. He invited LCPS administrators and the First Lady to come watch a unified sports competition.
“Remember — where there is unity, there is freedom!” he added at the end of his remarks.
In addition to the unified sports program, Northam pointed out that students appeared joyful and excited to “be back in class, back with their friends, back with their teachers and have that great peer support again ... To be able to play sports, to go to prom, to do homecoming.” She described those activities as, “always really fun.”
Ziegler said student mental health had been a priority of the school board and district since his tenure as superintendent began.
“On the day of my appointment, we also formed a student mental health taskforce,” he said. Its work is underway, and primary goals include helping students readjust to learning after the pandemic, and being more attentive to students’ long-term mental health needs as a “community of learners.”