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Students help open 'Care Zone' with free mental health services for South San Antonio ISD

More than 80 people have already been referred since the Care Zone opened Friday.

SAN ANTONIO — South San Antonio ISD is welcoming a new mental health resource center to the district.

For Nathaniel Soto, the stress started his freshman year. He was feeling anxious and a little depressed.

"Coming into high school, it was very intimidating," Nathaniel said. "I was trying to be someone that I wasn't, I was trying to fit in."

Nathaniel said his family and friends helped him through it, but not all of his classmates have the same support.

"My story is not the story of other students here at South San," Nathaniel said.

For about three years, Nathaniel and his friends Marc Mendiola, Augustine Perez, and Melivia Mujica have been working with Susan Arciniega to open the Care Zone. Arciniega is a mental health behavioral specialist who's been with SSAISD for more than 20 years. 

The Care Zone opened on Friday at Athens Elementary. Arciniega said more than 80 people have already been referred.

"It's a perfect place for privacy and it's at the center of our district," Arciniega  said. "It's a dream."

The Family Service Association, Communities in Schools, Jewish Family Services, Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas, Rise Recovery and Clarity are all offering free services inside the Care Zone. 

Over the last few years, Nathaniel said his classmates have bravely shared their struggles at school board meetings. Once the district saw the need, they pushed the project forward.

"This was for the students and by the students," Nathaniel said. "I'm proud, I really am."

Nathaniel graduates this June, but he's not leaving the Care Zone behind. He plans to come back as a volunteer, intern or even an employee.

"The Care Zone really just helped me as well because it made me realize that I have a purpose in this world," Nathaniel said. "And my purpose is to serve other people."

Nathaniel plans to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

For more information on the Care Zone, click here

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