At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, SCHS introduced a Virtual Wellness Center in order to continue to support students from home. Wellness Center Coordinator Michelle Sandoval and Wellness Center Outreach Worker Dupe Thomas are hoping to spread awareness about mental health virtually.
Sandoval and Thomas’s primary goal this year is to connect with students online. Additionally, they want to make resources for the entire community more accessible and normalize discussion of mental health.
“Students can have a check-in appointment. Parents can also request a check-in appointment and connect further with the wellness coordinator and other community resources,” Thomas said.
Everything provided by the Virtual Wellness Center is intended for use by all members of the Bruin community, according to Sandoval.
“The Virtual Wellness Center is for students and parents to access resources at any time. We have other methods and resources for our staff as well,” Sandoval said. “Our goal is to support everyone in our district staff, students and families alike, but we do that in different ways.”
Sandoval said the current methods of outreach include referral forms, joining classroom calls, sharing informational slideshows with students and faculty and hosting weekly lunch calls with students.
On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Thomas hosted the first lunchtime activity where students could ask questions and see other faces. However, the calls failed to draw many students and were canceled after six weeks.
“It was not structured. It was just a place to be and be seen and heard and relaxed,” Thomas said.
According to Thomas, the accessibility of resources at home and online is different than on-campus, and these discrepancies are something the Virtual Wellness Center has had to face.
In addition to the virtual center, SCHS has partnered with Social Emotional Learning, a process program for students and adults. SEL plans to provide resources for the SCHS community by focusing on five competencies: self management, self awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. The Virtual Wellness Center and the SEL programs work together, with the same goal to provide resources for students and faculty members.
“The goal is to make sure that all of the wellness activities and all of SEL activities are for both students and staff, even though they might look a little different,” Thomas said.
With the same goal in mind, they play different roles. The center deals with the various tiers of mental health at SCHS and evaluates the levels of student’s needs, while SEL deals with self-management, including setting or working towards positive goals. The Virtual Wellness Center and SEL plan on creating a virtual wellness week event.
“The time to create content and collaborate and connect with other staff members has really been afforded to us because of this current situation,” Thomas said.
Due to distance learning, the district has prioritized the center. SCHS is the only school in the district with an SEL task force, and the Virtual Wellness Center has gained more support as a result, according to Thomas.
Some students, like freshman Addison Deboe, believe the convenience and accessibility of the center is reassuring.
“I think the different outlets they have to help people deal with stress and stuff, especially for kids who might not have that many people to talk to at home, is probably the most helpful,” Deboe said.
Some students appreciate the Virtual Wellness Center and the information available on the website.
“I feel like the center is a safe place for the students because it also provides information on how students can get help, as well as lunch meetings to connect with other students,” freshman Christine Bauzon Parayno said.
With the materials provided by the Virtual Wellness Center, some students are communicating positive reactions and are impressed with the center’s outcome so far.
“I also appreciate all the hard work they put into providing a caring environment for students,” junior Isabella Garcia said.
By bringing the community together online, some feel the Virtual Wellness Center is a stabilizing resource for SCHS.
“It’s the most basic connections that we are making sure that we’re providing and wanting to encourage others to provide,” Thomas said.