Polk State College provides resources to cope with stress and barriers to learning

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Fear and anxiety about the coronavirus pandemic can be overwhelming, but coping with stress makes individuals, the people they care about, and the community stronger.

Polk State College’s Director of Disability and Counseling Services Kimberly Pearsall highlights the mental health resources as well as the tools for students with disabilities that are available year-round and that are particularly important during a time of crisis.

“It’s important for students, faculty, and staff to stay connected,” Pearsall said “Isolation can give rise to depression and anxiety. Call or text someone. Ask how they’re doing and let them know you’re thinking of them.”

To support students experiencing challenges, Polk State offers the BayCare Student Assistance Program. Students can call 1.800.878.5470 to receive immediate assistance over the phone from a licensed counselor. All services are free and confidential.

“It’s important to process your feelings,” said Pearsall. “Deep breathing is also a good way to deal with stress. So is taking a walk or getting outside when possible.”

Polk State students also have access to BayCare’s Personal Advantage, an online resource for help with everything from preparing for exams, to creating a personal budget, to managing stress.

The College also continues to work diligently to accommodate students with disabilities.

“We provide technical assistance and we are doing as much as we possibly can,” she said.

Pearsall’s role at Polk State includes assisting students who have disabilities to successfully access College programs and services. Access for students with disabilities can be more challenging as courses have moved from a face-to-face environment to one that is fully online.

“If, for example, a student is requesting a reader or scribe for exams due to their disability, the College has purchased a limited number of licenses for assistive software. Programs like JAWS, which is a speech-to-text software, are available and free to students,” she said.

Now or in the future, face-to-face or online, Polk State stands ready to help students, faculty, and staff with mental health issues or with barriers to learning.

Polk State has the following software available free to students living with disabilities:

  • JAWS Screen Reader Software by Freedom Scientific
    JAWS is designed to read aloud what is on the computer screen and to give users navigational tools to allow access to all screen and web content.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking Software by Nuance
    A speech recognition software that lets students express their ideas in writing more quickly and easily.
  • Sonocent by Dr. Roger Tucker
    Sonocent is a software program that students can access by using their smartphones or computer devices. The program makes audio recordings of lectures real by visualizing audio as chunks, phrase-by-phrase. Sonocent does what any note-taker would do and much more.

Additionally, the College recommends the following mental health resources:

Students may contact Pearsall at kpearsall@polk.edu or 863.669.2309 or Coordinator of Disability Services Dionne Formey at dformey@polk.edu or 863.292.3759 for more information and assistance with counseling and disability services.