SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Just before 7:20 a.m. on the day before February break, the black Ford SUV was the first vehicle to pull into the school parking lot. Inside, Nathaniel Wylie listened to the last refrains of the gospel praise song “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” before turning off the engine and heading inside the beige brick building. His morning playlist always consists of something uplifting, including the occasional motivational speaker.

“I love rap, I love hip hop, but I save that for after work,” he said. “I listen to something positive, something motivational for the morning so that I can carry that throughout the day.”

Wylie’s day began before dawn with an hour-long workout in the gym he built in his garage. He works prayer and meditation in with the weights. He doesn’t eat breakfast. At midday, he eats alone in his office inside the Washington Irving Educational Center, trying to stay mindful. Self-care is important to the 46-year-old school social worker — always a stressful job that a Covid-driven mental health crisis made more difficult. “I think it’s important to do what you need to do first so that you can pay it forward,” he said.


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