Comfortable couches, the sounds of trickling water and soothing music, and even a faux fireplace welcomed the attendees who found the peaceful surroundings very warm and inviting. And as people entered and took their first look inside, you could hear:
“This place is wonderful.”
“I can’t believe how beautiful this is.”
“Where was this when I was in school?”
After two years of study, presentations and visits to other school Wellness Centers across Southern California, school and community leaders got to experience what is intended to help students who are feeling increasing pressures and stress. Hart District administrators and Governing Board members wanted to create an environment where students can go that is not only stress-free but electronic-free as well.
“We purposely wanted to include students on our steering committee as this place is for them,” said Nancy Phillips, social worker and Wellness Center coordinator at West Ranch High School. “And they specifically said we don’t want any (electronic) devices allowed in here.”
“Students can access (the Wellness center) as a respite from the academic demands here at Canyon High School,” said Sarah Gilberts, who oversees the center at that school. “We have seen students for individual counseling and we are on the cusp of starting individual empowerment student groups, process-oriented and skills groups, that teach students the interpersonal skills they can take with them throughout life to help with their own well-being.”
In 2017, the Governing Board asked the District to look into the concept of wellness on each of the 17 campuses after reports that teens are under increasing pressures. During the 2018/19 school year, each principal was tasked with delivering a report to the Board on what they were doing to help the whole student on their campus.
“The new frontier in education is mental and emotional health and well-being,” said Hart Governing Board President Bob Jensen to the crowd gathered at West Ranch. “If we want to have happier, more productive students; students and citizens that contribute more to society and have a better society as a whole, we need to do more in public education from a standpoint of mental and emotional well-being. The Board from the Hart School District is committed to doing that.”
These first two centers will serve as pilots from which data will be collected to further serve the students at every campus in the Hart School District. Highly trained and licensed staff will be able to evaluate student needs and recommend further help with individual counseling should it be necessary.