WIC hosts Wellness Wednesday to improve mental health


Isabella Ciriello, Staff Writer

This Wednesday, visits with therapy dogs, and teacher and student-run workshops took place for the Wellness Initiative Club’s (WIC) Wellness Wednesday. WIC hosted several workshops throughout the day to raise awareness about mental health and help students learn how to practice mindfulness in their daily lives, WIC Co-president Avani Khorana (11) said.

Teachers led workshops, called “Faculty Favorites,” about mindfulness activities they practice, and students presented on topics such as meditation and addiction. Therapy dogs were brought to the school because they have been proven to have a positive effect on mental health, such as lowering stress, helping students decompress, and improving mood, WIC Co-president Tess Goldberg (11) said.

In addition, WIC posted positive messages on the mirrors in the bathrooms and handed out dark chocolate-covered strawberries and pretzels during break. “Our goal is to put Horace Mann students’ mental health and well-being first,” WIC Co-president Riya Daga (11) said.

Isabelle Fic (9) thought the messages on the bathroom mirrors to be a positive mental health boost in the midst of a stressful week, she said. “I was in the bathroom and I saw one that said ‘you’re amazing.’ It made me smile.”

Nate Chiang (10) visited the therapy dogs and found they helped him destress and take his mind off assessments, he said. Wellness Wednesday also helped him connect with his peers and the larger school community.

Upper Division English teacher Jennifer Little ran a workshop focused on mending clothes to practice mindfulness while also ending the cycle of fast fashion. “Slow stitching in general is kind of a relaxing and mindful practice. And so I was offering it as something that kids could do,” she said. “Tactiles, touching fiber or sewing things can be really enjoyable.”

Coco Trentalancia (11) hosted a workshop that demonstrated the importance of meditation and mindfulness at the school. Her goal was to expose students to meditation and destigmatize it by explaining it doesn’t have to be a large effort or practice, she said. “I think that students should not feel as if it’s an obligation to meditate or breathe or do whatever regarding mindfulness activities.”

Karolina Fic (10) attended Trentalancia’s workshop and enjoyed learning about the importance of meditation, she said. “It’s a way for people to realize there are easy ways to deal with mental health,” she said “Although it is hard to deal with it, there are easy, accessible options to deal with that.” 

Scarlett Goldberg (11) ran a workshop focused on mitigating self-destructive coping mechanisms amongst teenagers, which is her Independent Study topic, she said. The two classes that came to her A period workshop were very engaged and interested in hearing her presentation, she said. A special moment was when a student asked her for a book recommendation from the researchers who form the basis of Scarlett’s program. “It was really impactful to witness my peers engage openly with these difficult topics, and to even be curious to learn more.” 

Camila Florencio (10) attended History teacher David Berenson’s workshop about learning how to skateboard with her History of Jazz class. Florencio was nervous to try something new, but she was soon put at ease by the welcoming, supportive environment, she said. “I was afraid to get on the skateboard and start moving on it, so people would hold my hand until I got comfortable, and I would do the same thing for them,” she said.

The workshop also allowed Florencio to meet new students and form a closer bond with her peers, she said. “It helped me to have a better connection to some of my classmates, because we were doing this thing that we would never do before,” she said.

Sophie Li (10) thinks having Wellness Wednesday in the middle of the week is beneficial for students’ mental health because it helps alleviate the stress from the workload. “Right now, it’s a moment of high stress because of all the assessments we have,” she said “So I think that this is a much needed opportunity to relax and release.” 

Some students, such as Karolina, believe teachers should implement mindfulness activities on a more regular basis, she said. “My English teacher leads us in meditation when she sees that the class is stressed during a testing week. It helps immensely,” she said.

Similarly, Psychologist Dr. Ian Pervil believes hosting Wellness Wednesdays throughout the year would be beneficial for the school community, he said. “Instead of doing a week of wellness activities all at one time we chose to do either a series of events over the course of the year so [we were] spreading things out a little bit,” he said. “The thought was to do a Wellness Wednesday or two Wellness Wednesdays as a series of little events as a way to sort of carry wellness throughout the year.”

Students and teachers were so enthusiastic to attend Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly’s “Living well, Living Ethically: Aristotle’s Ideal Life” workshop and Daga and Lauren Landy’s (11) “Habits for a Healthier and Happier Lifestyle” workshop that classes had to zoom in because in-person capacity was full, Pervil said. “They were ready, willing, and wanting to engage in topics that aren’t always easy, or aren’t always the things that they think about every single day,” he said.

In the past, WIC hosted Wellness Weeks with workshops taking place every day throughout the week. However, they found it was overwhelming for students to be offered numerous workshops, while still having trouble making the workshops they wanted to attend fit into their schedule, Pervil said.

To combat these feelings, WIC decided to create Wellness Wednesdays that would have workshops every period for one day rather than just a few each day. “That way, it doesn’t feel like you’re spending a lot of frees in one given week in the year on it, but rather just spreading that throughout the year so it’s kind of like pacing yourself and having a new skill that you might pick up every couple of months,” Daga said.

The WIC presidents worked with Counseling and Guidance to plan the event. Initially, their goal was to host multiple Wellness Wednesdays, but they eventually planned one that had multiple workshops and events. “I think it’s better to have this one really strong day full of stuff that we’ve carefully planned, rather than maybe two workshops on this Wednesday and two more on that Wednesday that are less fleshed out,” Khorana said.

Many of the WIC members care about the importance of mental health because of their personal experiences with it, which helped the club get the motivation to create the event, Tess said. “Most people find that they have some sort of personal connection to the club and its message which makes its impact makes its impact that much greater and allows us to do influential work.”