ELSIE — As director of student services for Ovid-Elsie Area Schools, Macey Ehman works to ensure students are prepared for what comes next, whether that’s transitioning from middle school to high school or gearing up for college.

These days, Ehman — who also serves as a counselor at Ovid-Elsie High School — has taken on an additional task, ensuring students have adequate resources and support while facing a global pandemic.

“When something like this happens, there’s so much fear and anxiety that surrounds events that we can’t control if we don’t have the coping skills that we need to overcome that feeling of loss of control,” Ehman said. “I’m a passionate advocate of meditation, mindfulness and yoga, and the basic tenets of all of those are empowerment for the individual to understand what they can control when their environment seems out of control, and how to ground themselves by following their breath when the world around them seems shaky.”

Since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of all Michigan public and private schools through at least April 12 amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Ehman has been working from home, answering emails from students regarding scheduling concerns while also conducting one-on-one and/or group counseling sessions online regarding students’ social and emotional challenges.

Friday, Ehman launched a virtual meditation session for students — an activity she’s regularly offered on campus at Ovid-Elsie High School throughout the school year. She plans to conduct the sessions virtually at 8 a.m. every Monday and Friday for the foreseeable future.

“I’m just really taking all that I would do on campus and making it virtual as much as I can because, you know, if I continue to offer the counseling services that I have been offering as well as doing individual or group virtual counseling as needed based on this pandemic, then the students are more likely to be more resilient as a result of that. That’s my main goal.”

Ovid-Elsie Middle School science teacher Karle Delo is also going the extra mile for students during this time, challenging students to pick a skill, hobby or topic they wish to learn more about/improve upon and set to work on making progress.

The initiative, known as the #GetBetterChallenge, was sparked during a conversation between Delo and her boyfriend John Suhr, as she pondered a way to keep her students engaged while outside the classroom.

“I think it’s really important that we use this time to get better all around as a society,” Delo said, “so aside from using this time to keep our community healthy, I thought, ‘What if we also use this time to improve ourselves.’ You know, most of the time when you want to get better at something, you don’t have the time, that’s always the biggest factor, but right now, a lot of us do, so I thought it was a good opportunity (to do so).”

The challenge encompasses different tasks each day, according to Delo, with each step serving as a platform to achieve one’s personal goal.

“On day one you set a specific goal,” Delo said. “Day two might involve finding resources that will help you, day three you identify something you’ve struggled with and how you can overcome that, day four you share something you’ve improved upon and then at the end of the week you can reflect on initial goal, revise it from there, see what went well, what didn’t go well.”

To track progress, Delo has set up a page on the social learning platform Flipgrid for Ovid-Elsie students, encouraging participants to post regular updates on the page and/or social media — using the hashtag #GetBetterChallenge — each day. For those who’d rather keep the challenge to themselves, Delo recommends documenting improvements through a personal journal.

The challenge itself, however, is not limited to Ovid-Elsie students, according to Delo, as staff and community members are encouraged to get involved.

For her own part, Delo is taking the time to improve her skills on the electric guitar.

“I’ve tried before with electric and just kind of gotten frustrated and gave up, but I thought, ‘If I’m challenging my students to do something that’s hard for them — because that’s the key is you have to pick something that’s actually hard — then I’ve got to go all in as well,’” Delo said, adding that by taking part in an activity each day, kids are likely developing strong coping skills as well.

“I think each person will kind of gain something different (from this),” Delo continued, “but at least you’re gaining something, you know, instead of spending the time not doing anything…I’m a true believer in the idea that there’s inherent joy in learning something new or mastering a new skill. It feels good, you know? I’m hoping that that can brush off on some students.”

In facing this difficult reality, Ehman said she’s reminded of the words of a former mentor: Hard times expose true character.

“I’ve seen first hand just how the community has banded together, how our faculty and staff have stepped up to provide resources to our students and our families, and really, when you look at communities in mid-Michigan, within our state, across the United States, people are really banding together to help their neighbors and help those who are less fortunate,” Ehman said. “The list of the positive things that are happening just goes on and on. I hope that that’s something we continue to focus on long after this pandemic is over.”

For more information about Ovid-Else’s virtual meditation and counseling services, email Ehman at macey.ehman@ovidelsie.org.

For more information about the #GetBetterChallenge, visit bit.ly/getbetterchallenge.

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