This was a very different school year for MCVTS: Woodbridge since many of our students were virtual. Due to the pandemic, we were running on a hybrid schedule with no more than 25% of the students in each grade, in class. In most of my classes, therefore, there were no more than 10 students per class, 20 students total per grade, alternating days per week. Since all of the school could only meet together on zoom, we could not have Wellness days as per last year and had to look at other ideas for the year.
One of the first accomplishments was to book Joetta Clark (Olympian and motivational speaker) with the help of Kristen from Empower. The students joined through zoom and Ms. Clark spoke about overcoming adversity and persevering onward. Because our students are driven academically, her message appeared to resonate with the overall student body.
We wanted to have more contests in school to draw the entire student body together more cohesively so we decided to have weekly (10 weeks on Fridays) Kahoot quizzes based on Mental Health and Wellness topics. This worked well and about 20 students (different ones) joined each week to compete. The top place winner received a B&N gift certificate for $25 while second place earned a water bottle and third place earned a stress ball. The second and third place gifts were graciously provided by Kristen at Empower Somerset and we thank her for her donations!
The students on the Wellness Committee suggested in the Spring to give a reward to the hybrid students since they had worked so hard all year and had come in every day that they could during the pandemic. We then decided to order masks for all the hybrid students and teachers and staff in the building. Diya Nair, a student Wellness committee member designed the mask logo and we had another teacher’s father screen print them. The students enjoyed receiving them and I believe it brightened their day.
We are mainly a science and math school with very little exposure to the Arts. The Wellness committee decided (with the help of Ms. Graf in administration) to run some type of arts program in the Spring. We partnered with Mr. Jim Jack at George Street Playhouse to bring after school acting classes to the students each week, for 6 weeks. Under the direction of Mr. Louis Sallan, an acting teacher from NYU, the students learned different acting techniques each week and could have fun and hang out with their peers.
The Wellness committee also accomplished several other goals. Diya Nair produced four wellness podcast episodes that were placed on the google wellness classroom for our students to listen and to benefit from the information. We also had a mental health session through Rutgers for parents and students as a zoom meeting on the night of March 24. We also planned to run a mental health seminar given by a pediatrician from St. Peter’s Hospital on June 3. However, due to technical difficulties, that is in the process of being rescheduled as this summary is being written.
Overall, then, though we had a very different school year than usual, we were able to work through our challenges and present the students with some wellness activities and resources that we hope, both brightened their day while informing them about their mental health. If we receive future grants or, even, to continue on this one, we hope to continue and expand our programs to meet the social/emotional issues of our students, not just the academic ones.