The Student News Site of Clayton High School.

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The Student News Site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The Student News Site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

Waiting for Wellness

Wellness Center is set to open in February to provide additional resources for students
Owen Wohl
CHS Senior Blake Feinstein poses in front of the new Wellness Center. The space is located across from the art classrooms in the old bookstore.

Wellness Coordinator Jennifer McKeown is very excited to have chairs in the new Wellness Center space after dragging two over from the art room for our interview. After months of behind-the-scenes work, McKeown hopes the opening of the Wellness Center will provide a safe space for students to improve their mental and physical well-being. 

Since August, McKeown has spent first semester planning, meeting and working with students and staff to develop the space and procedures for the Wellness Center. 

The Wellness Center promotes wellness around CHS by destigmatizing a lot of thoughts about mental health and wellness,” Maryn Kearney, senior and Wellness Youth Council Member, said. 

McKeown formed the Youth Council in October to help with publicity, furnishings and art. She also wanted to spread the word about the purposes and uses of the Wellness Center. 

We want to normalize the fact that it’s okay to have some time and space to take a break,” McKeown said. 

She believes high school’s high pressure and performance environment has led students to believe that taking breaks will impede their academic success, but the opposite is true. She also emphasized the collaboration between the Wellness Center and other support systems within the school, such as social workers, nurses and counselors. 

“This is expanding the support and network for students. It’s not replacing anything. There is going to be constant communication and collaboration between Wellness and Counseling. So if you were to land in counseling, the Wellness Center or the nurse, and you might need a different space, we will get you to that space,” McKeown said. 

The Wellness Center is also uniquely suited to promote student well-being because it serves multiple students simultaneously. Nurses and counselors typically work one-on-one with students. The Wellness Center can serve multiple students through an initial drop-in space, check-ins with a Wellness Outreach Specialist and more in-depth conversations with McKeown or outside providers. 

It’s not just creating that safe space. It’s expanding the support and education.

— Jennifer McKeown

“[The] Wellness Center provides a space for students to help them regulate. If you need outside resources, you can get that. It’s not just creating that safe space. It’s expanding the support and education,” McKeown said. 

Kearney also emphasized the importance of having a space to step back from the many stresses of high school. 

By creating a space solely dedicated to this aspect of life, students will have an easier time finding resources that will help them with the day-to-day stress, anxiety, and more than can come with being in a competitive and challenging environment like Clayton High,” Kearney said. 

McKeown explained several reasons students would visit the Wellness Center, including stress relief and crisis management. These reasons were also presented to all staff at faculty and department meetings to encourage staff support for the program. To visit the Wellness Center during class time, especially during a crisis, students will need a pass from their teacher. 

“If a student is in distress, they’re going to come here to get assessed and we’re gonna make a plan to keep that student safe and get them the help and support they need,” McKeown said.  

The Wellness Center space is still under construction. Soft opening is expected on Feb. 20 and Wellness Launch Week begins Feb. 26.

These reasons include previously scheduled Wellness appointments with McKeown or an outside therapist, referring oneself or a friend to the Wellness Center for further support, taking a brain break or having space to calm down in a crisis. In addition, students can visit the Center’s drop-in space to access health education materials about topics such as stress, anxiety, depression, and substance use. McKeown also plans to have some self-care materials, similar to those in the nurse’s Care Cart, such as tea, phone chargers and band-aids. 

Students will be able to visit the Wellness Center during any free periods and Greyhound Time but will need a pass from their teacher to visit during class time. McKeown hopes to maintain some confidentiality with the pass system but acknowledges that there may be bumps in the road. 

“When something’s new, there’s always going to be a need for change and feedback, and it’s not gonna be perfect, and we’ll work we will hopefully change and develop things,” McKeown said. 

Kearney also expressed the need for student input even after the Wellness Center opens. 

Students can get involved by joining the Wellness Youth Council, where they can help with the design and outreach of the Wellness Center, or even just stop by the Wellness Center during a free period to check it out and ask any questions you may have,” Kearney said.

Kearney and the rest of the Youth Council have worked with McKeown to develop a variety of wellness activities that will be available in the drop-in space as part of a wellness toolbox of strategies. These include connection, movement, snacks, fidgets, games, mindfulness and art. 

I am most excited about the calming activities and dedicated quiet space in the Wellness Center.

— Maryn Kearney

I am most excited about the calming activities and dedicated quiet space in the Wellness Center. Sometimes, when I’m really stressed, I need a few minutes in a calm, quiet space to ground myself so that I can continue with my day,” Kearney said. 

The Wellness Center is set to open for a staff open house on Feb. 16 and for students on Feb. 20. Until her chairs are delivered, McKeown can be found in the commons administrative conference room.

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Alex Cohen
Alex Cohen, Editor-in-Chief
Alex Cohen is a senior and this is her fourth year on Globe. She joined Globe because her 8th-grade English teacher handed her a copy of the Globe and told her to try it out. This year she is looking forward to her last year of high school and spending time with friends. Her extracurriculars include swim team, water polo and best buddies club. She also loves baking, reading and spending time with her dog, Colby Jack. 
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