Taking a load off: RCCC students unwind with exam jam

Published 12:10 am Thursday, December 8, 2022

College exam week can be grueling, but at least one local college aims to make things a little more cheerful around campus.

To help offset the mental toil of exam week, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College faculty organized an exam jam in the media center for students to unwind and have fun. Therapy dogs, arts and crafts, drinks and snacks were available during a two-hour window on Tuesday at the north campus and Wednesday at the south campus.

“Around this time of year, we have a lot of students under stress with their exams,” said Imani Crawford, a case manager at RCCC. “I think it is important for them to see that their college cares about them.”

Outside of the exam week, Crawford indicated that the methods they employ at the jam session could also transfer to daily routines.

“Being able to reach out to students and to have different ways for them to de-stress is helpful, but it also teaches them creative ways to manage their stress when this isn’t a resource, or they are outside a school setting,” Crawford said. “If you think about how often we keep going and going every day, regardless of what we do for a living or what we are studying in school, sometimes, we forget to stop and take care of ourselves. I think it is a good practice for everyone to build.”

One RCCC student, Aaron Hill, was taking full advantage of the unwinding time on Tuesday.

Hill just finished the early-college program at RCCC, but this is the 18-year-old’s first year officially being at the college. Although not wholly foreign to the process because of his exposure through early college, Hill’s exam schedule is starting to come into focus.

“I have a math exam, my psychology exam and a final project for my humanities,” Hill said.

With so much on his plate in the near future, the Salisbury native was looking for anything to relieve the stress.

“It helps to get my mind off it,” Hill said. “I can go to this event over here and pet a dog the whole time.”

Hill indicated that having that mental reset is crucial for him.

“It was really enjoyable,” Hill said. “It helped distract me from the impending stress of having to deal with exams.”

Hill’s class is one of many to make use of the cool-down that has been going on for a few years. It officially began in 2018.

“As the tutoring center director, I noticed that the students coming to the center around the time of final exams were experiencing a great amount of stress and anxiety and were often unprepared for the magnitude of college exams,” Deanna Dixon said. “As tutors, we are able to provide knowledge and guidance in the students’ content area, but we felt ill-equipped at the time for preparing them both mentally and physically, as well.”

A student impact grant obtained through the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Foundation provided the opportunity to run with Dixon’s idea and offer a student-centered event to help them prepare for final exams.

“We were lucky to receive our first grant award and began planning right away for December 2018,” Dixon said. “We created the slogan ‘review, refresh, de-stress.’ It highlights our goal of offering students the chance to review subject material and learn valuable study and test-taking strategies while enjoying healthy refreshments and snacks. Finally, it allows for opportunities to de-stress and take short brain breaks.”

Dixon indicated that over the years, the event had featured various activities, including yoga, making DIY stress balls, painting kindness rocks and creating inspirational bracelets and buttons.
“Since its inception, we’ve also been excited to welcome therapy dogs and even one cat, which are always a huge hit with the students,” Dixon said.

Dixon indicated that the event has helped forge more comprehensive partnerships with other elements within the college.

“In 2021, we expanded to include both the fall and spring semesters and strengthened our collaboration with other departments like the library, the Wellness Center, and Student Life,” Dixon said. “Our goal is to make students feel supported and prepared for the stress and anxiety that goes along with these last few weeks of the semester and to provide them with resources that they will hopefully take and apply to other aspects of their life and into future semesters.”