One Waxahachie Global High student has made a difference in the lives of other Ellis County teens who have experienced trauma.
Rachel Cruzan decided to intertwine her senior capstone project and community service course requirements at the Ellis County Children’s Advocacy Center. With her mother serving on the ECCAC board, Cruzan was exposed to the center early in life.
"I remember coming here and being like, ‘Wow, what they are doing is so good for kids,'" Cruzan said. "I constantly hear the negative talk on the news ... It’s just so sad, but coming here, a weight is lifted because you know these kids are receiving the help they need."
The majority of interviews conducted at the ECCAC are sexual assault-related with about 48 percent of victims ages six to 12 and 37 percentages of 13 to 17.
At the ECCAC, designated areas were created for children, and the center lacks a functional space for teenagers to receive therapy and cognitive work.
"We were thinking about thee needs of the center and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a student-developed design, a student who did the research and found out what we can do for the adolescent and teen room?'" said ECCAC Executive Director Leslie Deen.
Cruzan worked closely with the clinical director, Kineta Holsworth, to conduct a needs assessment. Cruzan then independently conducted research on elements and observed a hospital setting to make the teen room environment ideal for therapy. Cruzan developed a wish list and then compiled a vision board that was later proposed at the executive level and eventually to the ECCAC board.
"Her feedback was actually surprising," Holsworth mentioned. "After she did the assessment, she laid out the things she felt worked well in the room. We were surprised to find that it was a lot more subdued and calming than what I had anticipated."
The ECCAC employees figured a cooler room with patterns and pops of color would be more well-received by teens, but after Cruzan conducted her research, she found a more traditional room setting with soothing elements would be more appropriate.
"That communication of maturity was really important to her," Holsworth noted.
Other elements Cruzan found were important included a bowl of advanced hand-held widgets, earth-tone colors with natural light, a variety of textures, traditional furniture and rugs, and soothing smells such as lavender and eucalyptus.
Cruzan put herself in the shoes of the teens and realized when she is anxious, she likes to grab onto items and was able to implement that in the vision board as well with a white fuzzy rug.
"For the younger ones, they like sitting on the floor, so my idea is that they would like to touch the fur [rug] and pet it to calm them down," Cruzan explained.
"As a teen myself, I wanted to create somewhere for teenagers who are going through these really stressful moments of needing comfort to be in an environment that soothes them but also empowers them to talk about what they need to talk about," Cruzan elaborated.
After Cruzan completed her teen room project, she assisted regularly with cleaning and maintenance of the current play therapy room, organizing records, and planning the annual gala fundraiser.
After high school, Cruzan aspires to obtain her business degree and plans to take over her family’s telecommunications business.