Arcadia High School Launches New Wellness Center to Support Students
By Arcadia Unified Digital Communications Intern Leila Nunez
Screenshot of the Arcadia High Wellness Center Website Homepage
While many school districts have one counselor who is shared by multiple schools, the Arcadia Unified School District has made educating the “whole child” a priority and has taken action over the past few years to secure at least one full-time counselor at each of its schools. Building on its efforts, Arcadia Unified has added a full-time social and emotional learning counselor, Dr. Deja Anderson, to oversee Arcadia High School’s new Wellness Center and provide dedicated mental health and wellness support for the students and staff of Arcadia High.
Virtually unveiled at the start of the 2020-21 school year, Arcadia High’s online Wellness Center is a place where students, parents, and staff can go when they need additional mental health support or if they want to be proactive with learning about and maintaining their mental well-being.
“My mental health has definitely gotten much worse since distance learning started because of the pressure from school work and college applications,” said Aparna Hariharan, a senior at Arcadia High School. “I see myself struggling a lot because Zoom and Google Meet sessions are not the same experience as in-person lectures,” she shared.
Arcadia High students have become known for the high expectations they set for themselves, making Arcadia High’s Wellness Center the newest step in the school and district’s continuous journey to help students find a healthy balance between schoolwork and life, as well as finding fulfillment beyond academic achievement. In addition, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on everyone’s sense of normalcy, Arcadia High’s Wellness Center services also aim to shore up strategies and techniques to help students get through the various layers of stress piling on during this time.
With Distance Learning in effect since Spring 2020, planning for Arcadia High’s Wellness Center saw a virtual shift.
“We had been planning to create a Wellness Center at the high school so that students can go in and meet with counselors one-on-one or participate in wellness activities,” said Arcadia High Social and Emotional Learning Counselor Dr. Deja Anderson.
Arcadia High’s new Wellness Center logo created by Arcadia High students Ashley Lin and Elena Chan
“It’s interesting because when COVID hit, our staff had to discuss an alternative way to provide valuable resources for the mental well-being of our students. Now, ever since this pandemic, students feel more comfortable with checking-in virtually because it enables their hope for privacy more than meeting in person,” explained Dr. Anderson.
Some students, like Arcadia High freshman Heyneil Chuang, have reported that the quality of their mental health has not been affected by the events of 2020, exemplifying how mental well-being needs vary vastly from person to person.
“This year took time to get used to but I’ve got the hang of it now,” said Chuang. “Adapting from in-person to distance learning has been quite simple.”
Helping students understand how mental health and mental illness operate is important. “You have mental health and then you have mental illness [... and they are] two different things,” said Dr. Anderson.
According to Dr. Anderson, mental health includes emotional, psychological, and emotional well-being. Similar to physical health, mental health should be practiced and maintained. Taking the time to learn strategies to help bolster mental health helps people identify and process the stress they are experiencing, which is especially useful during difficult times.
While mental health and mental illness do not specifically equate to one another, Dr. Anderson advocated that both are important to talk about. “In order for more people to learn about mental health, we have to have those discussions,” noted Dr. Anderson. “The only way to raise awareness for mental health is to talk about it to others.”
The Arcadia High Wellness Center website allows visitors to easily find accessible and organized sections in key categories that discuss topics, such as managing anxiety, tips for getting better sleep, daily journaling activities, and more, which can help manage and take care of social and emotional health. The mindful activities found in the Virtual Wellness Room promote self-care and provide support to the Arcadia High community during this year’s back-to-back stressful situations.
A significant feature of the virtual Arcadia High Wellness Center is the bi-weekly drop-in sessions offered to students. This program allows students to meet with Dr. Anderson on Mondays and Thursdays via Google Meet. Dr. Anderson shared that the virtual aspect of the Wellness Center seems to have created an increased sense of privacy for students, which helps them feel more comfortable in meeting with her during these sessions.
Flyer for Bi-weekly Drop In Sessions
Courtesy of the Arcadia High School Wellness Center
In addition to these check-ins for students, the Wellness Center has also hosted virtual workshops for parents on how to support and identify mental health needs, such as strategies for managing anxiety and stress, chair yoga to help with screen-time overload in this time of virtual everything, and more. Arcadia High’s Wellness Center also offers wellness sessions for Arcadia Unified teachers and staff, which have so far included how to leverage positive psychology and managing stress.
Mental health plays an extremely important role in our ability to adapt to life’s hurdles. It affects the way we perceive our thoughts, feelings, and how we communicate with one another. Dr. Anderson voiced that the primary purpose of the Wellness Center at Arcadia High School is to inform others about the significance of mental health and promote awareness.
“Our role when it comes to mental health is to educate ourselves about it so that we can help others in the future,” said Dr. Anderson.
Since the physical closure of schools in March 2020, Arcadia Unified has been proactive in keeping mental health at the forefront. In addition to curating a list of resources for students, staff, and parents to easily access on its website, Arcadia Unified also participated in Mental Health Mondays through May’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Arcadia High has also hosted “Arcadia High Wellness Weeks” over the years, which has seen students engaged in many mindfulness activities to help promote and encourage positive social-emotional strategies.
For more information about Arcadia High School’s virtual Wellness Center, visit http://bit.ly/ArcadiaHighWellnessCenter, and for more information about the Arcadia Unified School District’s commitment to educating the whole child, visit www.ausd.net.