Teacher spotlight: Mr. McClary & the YDP

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By Rhea Singh, Staff Writer

Within the stress-filled environment of a school, many students do not pause to address the mental and emotional strain placed on them. However, it is essential to take the time to deal with your issues, whether that be in the form of self-care or speaking to someone else about it. In Townsend Harris, Rondell McClary, the Youth Development Program (YDP) Counselor, is an individual easily accessible for students to communicate with.

The YDP provides services that are meant to “help students deal with social and emotional issues, ranging from drugs and alcohol to family issues to basically being a teenager and some of the struggles that come along with it,” said Mr. McClary.

Many students come to speak to Mr. McClary, for things ranging from referrals, or just curiosity about him and his office space. While he prefers that students make appointments in advance via email, Mr. McClary also accepts walk-in students who stop by in an emergency.

Senior Shivani Persaud, a student who speaks with Mr. McClary often, reflected on her first experience with him this year, saying that it was very natural feeling – there were no introductions, and no backstory was needed. She said, “People have stopped caring about their wellbeing and their own emotions. I’m a really sensitive person, and sometimes I’d see that people are clearly not okay. But they suck it up and shut everything down[…]It’s heartbreaking and won’t heal anything.”

To Shivani, people like Mr. McClary “make things bearable when some of us feel the world crashing down upon us.”

Senior Max Kurant, who has been seeing Mr. McClary since his sophomore year, also finds it to be beneficial. “It pains me that getting help is such a stigma, especially in our school. This is a man who is passionate about helping people and making sure that students are okay and doing well in our high-stress environment,” he said. “He really helps me make myself a priority and not just all my work and responsibilities, which I often get caught up in doing.”

In reference to Mr. McClary, Max said, “He’s very human, you know he cares when you talk to him. He remembers details of stories I told him when we first started meeting because he cares about making those personal connections and maintaining them…He’s easily changed how I live my life and is one of the best mental health and wellness resources students can get their hands on.”

Another senior, who has chosen to remain anonymous for this article, has been talking to Mr. McClary since her junior year, and described him as a “great support system.” She said, “Talking to him has helped me greatly, but I think the greatest change I’ve seen is that I’m able to better communicate my feelings toward my friends and my family. I feel like a much stronger person who is able to accept challenges and take advantage of the difficult experience and learn from it, and grow to become a better person.”

To students who might be hesitant about approaching Mr. McClary, he stresses that the YDP is judgment-free; students need to understand how important it is not to suppress their feelings or thoughts, as doing so could lead to unhealthy results.

He said, “Everybody is going through stuff, whatever it is. It could be from struggling with academic issues to preparing an application for college. Don’t be afraid; I am not here to get you in any trouble. Everything we talk about is confidential and [you] should try it.”