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The Talon

The Talon

Self-care and finding a balance

Humans of the Hawk Nest: AHS social worker Arin Renaud
Ankeny High School social worker Arin Renaud works in her office. Arin Renaud can help provide students and families with many forms of support. “I hope that people describe me as being kind, genuine, and caring and I hope students think I am supportive, a good listener, and encouraging to them.”
Lydia Gerety
Ankeny High School social worker Arin Renaud works in her office. Arin Renaud can help provide students and families with many forms of support. “I hope that people describe me as being kind, genuine, and caring and I hope students think I am supportive, a good listener, and encouraging to them.”

As you enter her office, the first thing you will see is a bright smile that is ready to welcome you. When you begin to talk you will notice that she is genuine due to the inviting tone she speaks with, causing you to leave feeling better than you did when you walked in. Or at least that was my experience when I met Ankeny High School social worker, Arin Renaud, for the first time.

A social worker is someone who provides support for students, families, and staff. Social workers are an important pillar in helping students’ emotional well-being which will in turn encourage students to reach their individual academic goals.

“Basically, when I sum up my job, it is to reduce any barrier that might prevent a student from being successful at school,” Renaud explained.

Renaud can be found in the counseling office and is accessible to any student who is seeking support. She provides a safe and stable environment for students who need someone to listen to them without judgment.

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“[Arin Renaud] is my go-to when things get hard,” Ankeny High School counselor Audrey Bell expressed. “When I have any challenging situation, whether it’s personal or work, I actually turn to her because she’s steady and she’s reliable and she’s knowledgeable. She always knows the right thing to do and say, and she is unrattled, like, she does not freak out about things.”

Before working in Ankeny Schools, Renaud worked in the Des Moines Public School District. While students tend to be struggling with similar issues, each individual school will also have its own needs.

“She [has] this more worldly understanding of resources that might be needed,” Bell illustrated. “And she’s a gift to us. It’s a blessing to have her resources and her support. And if she doesn’t know, she’ll find it. She’s resourceful enough to find whatever resource we need or that a family needs.”

Renaud’s coworkers have described her as intelligent, professional, and resourceful. But the word that was used the most commonly to describe her was compassionate.

“Her overall compassion for students, supporting students where they’re at, and helping them to move forward in achieving what they see as success for them,” Ankeny High School counselor Mici Vos stated. “She doesn’t necessarily prescribe you ‘Oh, this is what your success looks like.’ She really does have that ability to just say, where are you currently at? Where do you want to be? And then let’s work and focus on that. She really tries to help those students focus on what are the steps I need to do and take in order to move forward.”

Finding value

A High school is similar to a melting pot, when entering the doors students are surrounded by people who are similar and different. Some students gravitate towards groups of others while some prefer to just be. No matter where students fall they are an important part of the school community. 

“I want everyone to feel like they have a voice and a place and a reason for being, whether it is here in Ankeny High School, or being just alive in general,” Renaud expressed. “Because we all have a role, right? Every single one of us no matter what type of student you are, if you’re a straight-A student, if you really struggle at school, if you are in food service, or if you’re the principal, everybody has a role and it’s important that everyone feels valued and has that experience.”

Ankeny has many students and it is important for them to not go unnoticed, which can be done by building relationships with them. Something Renaud excels in.

“She can create a relationship with someone so that they feel valued, and she can challenge them appropriately,” Bell stated. “Once she’s established their trust, she can give tough love when needed but it’s only because she’s established a trusting and trustworthy relationship first that she can issue a challenge and help someone push beyond their comfort zone.” 

Renaud is not only a support for students but a good friend to the staff. She helps to provide clarity in tough situations along with knowledge about what they need to know and ways to approach the issue.

“Not only did she validate what I did in the situation, but she helped me see it through a different lens, and gave me clarity on, ‘this is the way you handled it. You’re obviously feeling like you didn’t handle it well. What do you think you would have done differently in that situation? What do you think you would do the same?’” Vos explained. “But then she always ties it back to but in the given moment that you made the choice that you did what you could do with the knowledge that you had at that time. So there is no reason to ‘if ands or buts it.’”

Creating routine

Like many jobs, there is a give and take, and working in a school with sensitive and complex topics can take an emotional toll. To help Renaud be able to not only be there for the school, but also be present for her family, she has established routines and practices self-care.

“Self-care is essential to being able to care for others,” Bell stated. “I think of it like the oxygen mask analogy on an airplane, you are no good to others if you can’t take care of yourself. Also the analogy, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to be able to have your own cup filled in order to share your light with others.”

People define self-care differently, some envision a relaxing day where they can lay in bed and do nothing, while others see themselves taking a day off from work to spend time with their family. Overall self-care is finding the time to do things that bring enjoyment and improve someone’s physical and mental health. 

“I’ve had to learn self-care skills from the beginning because there are really heavy topics that I’m dealing with on a daily basis,” Renaud explained. “So I would say some things for me, is exercising for sure, going on walks or doing forms of movement that I really like. Making sure that I have people that I can talk to if something at work is overwhelming, or stressing me out. I can talk to the other counselors here, just to be able to help me share the load a little bit or process things that might have happened.”

Many people live busy lives and it can get chaotic and overwhelming to live in the moment and take it day by day, so it is important to take time to relax and process what happened during the day and then prepare for what is happening next.

Self-care bingo made by Lydia Gerety using Canva

“I have a routine that every day when I drive home from work, I always drive home with no sound on, I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t talk on the phone, I just typically drive home in silence and that’s really kind of a time for me to decompress and it acts as my separation between work and home,” Renaud said.

Discovering balance

Similar to how students have commitments outside of school, so do teachers and staff. They have families and friends they want to be there for, and activities they enjoy doing. The Ankeny High School counseling staff are some of Renaud’s friends and Vos’ said one of her favorite memories of Renaud was seeing her wedding.

“Just seeing how happy she is and her as a mom with her girls and just leaning into that role as a stepmom because you can truly see that personal inner beauty of her during that time and who she is as an overall person,” Vos illustrated.

Finding a work-life balance is hard for a lot of people. It is something that they have to learn and find the methods that work for them.

“She will go above and beyond on anything, but I also know that we have contract times,” Vos said. “We have to be here at 7:50 and we can leave at 3:50. So unless there is something that’s really pressing or she needs to do she really does try to adhere to I’m here at 7:50 and I’m going to go home at 3:50 so that I can be home for my kids when they’re getting home from school.”

Yet, because Renaud is a school social worker that does not necessarily mean her job begins and ends at the school doors.

“I also know that if there’s something tragic that happens because she’s a school social worker, she’s going to get a call and she’s going to have to leave her family,” Vos stated. “So I think on the days that she knows that everything’s good, that gives her that opportunity to continue to have that balance.”

Learning confidence

If Renaud could tell her high school self one thing it would be to be more confident in who she is and was. She encourages students to join sports and clubs to help build confidence. And accept that everyone is different and students all have different places where they fit in. But it also comes down to how students think and talk about themselves.

“It comes back to practice, we have to practice our confidence, whether that’s how we speak to ourselves or speak about ourselves to other people,” Renaud explained. “I would really encourage people to speak and treat themselves like they would treat a friend, respect themselves and value themselves, and you know, hype themselves up.”

One time when Renaud was going through a hard time her friend supported her and helped her get through something that would have been really difficult without them. She mentioned it can be challenging to show gratitude in a rough patch but she wanted her friend to know she was thankful.

“I actually set myself a reminder in my phone, that in one year from that moment, I wanted to send them a thank you card, because of their kindness and their thoughtfulness towards me, I didn’t want to forget that,” Renaud expressed.

Renaud has worked with a lot of different students over the years and she learned something when she was feeling defeated that she wants everyone to know.

“No circumstance or feeling stays around forever; feelings come and go. Things pass. We work through things…things are going to go differently or things are going to change and you are going to have different experiences,” Renaud said.

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About the Contributor
Lydia Gerety, Staff Reporter
Lydia Gerety is a sophomore at Ankeny High School. She is involved in Model United Nations and marching band. She plans to go to a four year college and pursue a degree revolving around English language arts. Lydia likes to spend time with her family and friends and can be spotted at your closest bookstore roaming the shelves.
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