SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School is now offering an alternative to suspension as well as opportunities for students to deal with stress. School Psychologist Jane Esposito introduced the new Align Wellness Center to students and staff on Tuesday.
“This is an opportunity to teach coping techniques,” Esposito said. “We know stress is an epidemic across the country and here as well.”
Students who would have been suspended for infractions including vaping, drug and alcohol possession or a positive drug test have the opportunity to have counseling through the Align Wellness Program according to vice principal Michael Lauricella.
Details are found in the Student Handbook Code of Conduct.
Resources were set up in the media center on Tuesday, to introduce students and staff to the Align Wellness Center offerings. They had aroma therapy, coloring pages, kindness rocks, weighted pillows and blankets. People stopping by could create stress balls with balloons, rice, lentils and flour.
Petting Hank the bunny was very popular. Sparta Athletic Center donated a gift certificate and other items for a raffle. Later in the day Media Center Specialist Angela Deluccia offered yoga classes.
Esposito said they learned that students were not aware of resources available to them from a survey about stress given to students and staff members last year. She said survey told them students did not know they could go to ask for help with stress.
Lauren Monaco, the Student Assistance Counselor, Jodi Skiba-Fitzpatrick Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Susan Lorentz Licensed School Psychologist will all be working with Esposito to provide counseling to individual students as well as group counseling.
Sara Abdalla, Alex Boswell and Samantha DiGiessi, three graduate student interns from Montclair State University will be contributing to the wellness efforts as well.
For students to take advantage of the Align initiative as an alternative to suspension, Esposito and Lauricella said the parents must be “100% involved.”
Lauricella said a handful of students has already elected to use this option.
The length of the program depends on the needs of the student, Esposito said.
“This is exactly what we’ve been talking about for years; restorative practices, the affective side versus the cognitive side of education,” Superintendent Michael Rossi said. “I’m really proud of the team. We gave them the green light and they really took off.”
Esposito said students who wished to access the Align Wellness Center resources can stop by the guidance department and ask. They can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see their guidance counselor or her anytime.
Esposito said events are posted in their calendar and announcements will be made to keep students informed. Generally she said they have meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.