Change to Chill aims to relieve stress for students

Submitted photo New Ulm High School Principal Mark Bergmann (fifth from right) is pictured with all of District 88’s counselors. Pictured, left to right, Ben Hagar (Middle School Counselor), Kayla Sandersfeld (Middle School Counselor), Amanda Frank (High School Counselor), Brenda Bergmann (spouse to Mark Bergmann), Mark Bergmann, Ryan Ziemer (High School Counselor), Jenna Helget (Jefferson Elementary School Counselor) and Chelsea Buchholz (New Ulm Parochial School Counselor).

NEW ULM — As spring heats up, Allina Health and New Ulm Public Schools are planning ways to chill out.

Allina Health’s Change to Chill program is partnering with nine schools to help students deal with stress from classes, activities and social pressures.

“New Ulm High School is one of those nine across our service organization that has been selected as a school partner,” Susan Nygaard, manager of community health improvement, said.

Planning for the Change to Chill partnership begins this spring. The program will consist of six major components implemented in the 2018-19 school year.

The first component is called a Train the Trainer session. It will provide educators with knowledge about teen stress, lesson plans and management skills.

To get feedback on implementation, there will be two focus groups of 15 students, one in the spring and the other in the fall.

Allina also will work with District 88 to create a plan for engaging with parents, including regular newsletters. It will help teach them about their children’s stress.

District 88 also will receive $1,000 to create its own relaxing space.

“The space could include walls that are painted a softer, calm color,” Nygaard said. “It could be some bean bag chairs or soft chairs, dim lighting, sound machines — those types of things.”

Due to lack of space, instead of a specific room, the high school will use the money to create a relaxing environment in its offices, High School Counselor Amanda Frank said in an email.

The final component is access to a variety of print and digital resources already as part of Change to Chill.

Details on implementation are scarce right now. The plan is to give responsibility for running the program over to a newly added school counselor position.

To judge success of the program, the school will have two surveys before and after the Change to Chill implementation year, to measure the impact on students and staff, Frank wrote in an email.

Allina’s program is more than the new partnership with District 88. Change to Chill has been around for over three years.

“It is an online resource that Allina Health created in response to the rise in mental health needs across our service organization in all the communities that we serve,” Nygaard said.

The website prompts visitors to take a quiz and uses their responses to teach them about stress-management techniques.

There are also resources to teach about what stress is and management through videos, guides and more.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at