WARREN, NJ - Students and teachers concluded a year-long “Healthy Edge Wellness Initiative” designed to concentrate on nurturing and nourishing the mental health and well-being of students and teachers during a day-long Wellness Day, on Friday, June 8, at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS).

The June 8 Wellness Day was organized by: WHRHS Student Assistance Counselor Gwen Blake, Italian Teacher TyanaTroung, and English Teacher Michelle Germinario. Organizers of this Wellness Day thought it would be a special treat for students and teachers to participate in a Wellness Day in June.

“It was a gorgeous day outside, and it was June, after all, and near the end of the school year,” said WHRHS Student Assistance Counselor Julie Kumpf. “We asked the teachers to use the day to ‘think outside the box’ with fun, innovative, creative and relaxing activities that would call for teachers and students to interact in a way other than the typical ‘teacher-student’ dynamic. Teachers wrote lesson plans, and had them approved by supervisors, but were encouraged to do something “different,” such as play games, role play, just take the time to notice the day, and have fun. Many teachers chose to take their classes outside, since it was such a beautiful day. Every regularly scheduled class during the day participated. It was fun.”

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Turns out that both the students and the teachers ended up being nurtured and nourished by the exercise, both by doing something different, while also having a chance to see each other in different lights, Kumpf said.

The concept of nurturing and nourishing the mental health and well-being of students and teachers rose out of the brainchild of the Wellness Committee, as well as its subcommittee of students called the “Teen Action Group.” These were two of many committees and subcommittees developed by the WHRHS Board of Education members, administrators, teachers, students, parents and community leaders and volunteers, back in 2014, all working to implement the goals and objectives of the WHRHS Strategic Plan 2015-2020. 

The Strategic Plan’s three goals are:

•​Create and expand programs and services that enhance the social and emotional wellness of all students within a compassionate learning community.

•​Build and strengthen support structures that engage students in developing their individual potential, enable students to experience success in high school, and empower students to plan and prepare well for post-secondary learning.

•​Integrate creative, innovative, and interdisciplinary learning throughout the district to empower and inspire students to succeed in a changing global community.

The Wellness Committee, chaired by Kumpf and WHRHS VicePrincipal Patricia Toubin, meets monthly, and develops and organizes Wellness initiatives, under the shorter brand name, “Healthy Edge.” The committee wanted to help WHRHS embrace the spirit of the first strategic goal: “Enhance the social and emotional wellness of all students within a compassionate learning community.”

To that end, the Wellness Committee and Teen Action Group held a series of special events this year, including:

•​An earlier-in-the-school-year Wellness Day that was held on Monday, Dec. 11, the same day as the annual and dynamic “Challenge Day,” for students, and adult and faculty volunteers. On that day, a Health Fair was held for Faculty, with representatives from a variety of health providers and community service agencies, such as volunteer fire and rescue squad companies, present to provide first-hand information;

•​“The Chris Herren Story” On Wednesday, Jan 10, that featured former high school, college and professional Basketball standout and dynamic speaker Chris Herren. He spoke to an assembly in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) of students, school sports teams, parents and community members about how easily and how devastating it can be to fall prey to substance abuse addictions;

•​On Tuesday, March 6, again in the PAC, the first of two “Let’s Talk Community Conversations” were held, this one titled, “Let’s Talk: Drugs and Alcohol;”

•​The second “Community Conversation” followed on Thursday, April 12, in the PAC, titled simply, “Let’s Talk: Mental Health. This one was hosted by the WHRHS PTO (Parent Teacher Organization.). 

At all of these events as at just about every other event throughout the school year at WHRHS, students from a variety of classes, from business and accounting to Culinary Arts, media relations and digital art development, were involved in the planning and staging the events, helping to fulfill the third goal of the Strategic Plan: “Integrate creative, innovative, and interdisciplinary learning throughout the district to empower and inspire students to succeed in a changing global community.” That eye toward finding interdisciplinary learning experiences is also found by design up and down the school’s curriculum, again as an acknowledgement to the Strategic Plan’s goals: “Build and strengthen support structures that engage students in developing their individual potential, enable students to experience success in high school, and empower students to plan and prepare well for post-secondary learning”

For more information about the Healthy Edge Wellness Initiative, go to the WHRHS Web site, www.whrhs.org, click on the organizing button, “Community” and then click on the button in the left column, “The Healthy Edge.”

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