Wellness Center Targets Student Stress


Genie Lee, News Editor

Currently under construction, the counseling office is being transformed into a space where students can better access assistance with mental health and other social issues. The new wellness center is scheduled to be ready for business by the end of the 3rd quarter.

Mental health intervention specialist John Barakos, who took part in the planning process, said the idea for a wellness center was formalized at the beginning of last school year.

A wellness task force, made up of  counselors and administrators from each school in the district made visits to other campuses where mental health intervention centers are already in use.  The task force also met several times to discuss the development of similar interventions, like wellness centers, at AUHSD campuses, according to Barakos.

According to principal John Walker, the move to create a wellness center at Campolindo was discussed after Las Lomas became the first in the AUHSD school district to open one. “We are the second in line to have a wellness center,” he said.

In addition to providing staff that will specialize in mental health, the wellness center is also intended to be a more welcoming physical space. Barakos said, “Las Lomas always had the worst counseling, like physical offices and they got their first wellness center and it’s up and running and it’s a really nice center from what I understand.”

The counseling office has been undergoing major renovation, including the construction of a new reception desk at the front of the counseling office. “There’ll be a staff member that will work this desk and students will come check in and they’ll help the students decide if they need some time to decompress or collect their thoughts; do they need to meet with their academic counselor, do they need to meet with a marriage family therapist so that conversation will happen here,” said Walker.

“You’ll come in and talk with somebody who’ll kind of assess what your need is and then you can get help or you can come see somebody for your emotional stuff, but also it can tie in academics, so there’ll be a place where you can rest. It’s kind of a more holistic approach to mental health because that’s what schools have really needed,” said Barakos.

If students are struggling under social or academic pressures during school, they will be given the chance to “regroup” at the wellness center before they proceed to class, said Walker.

Junior Caroline Coates said, “It will make people less stressed, or if they have something going on they can go in and have a place to talk about it, which is a good thing to have.”

According to counselor Duane Magno, the move is in response to data collected from recent student surveys which have indicated that AUHSD students are exhibiting high levels of stress. The district “is trying to make sure we’re addressing students’ stress and students’ needs, and the wellness center kind of comes almost directly out of a lot of that feedback,” he said.

“The core of it is that students will meet with staff members to talk through whatever issues they’re facing and develop some skills to cope with those issues like stress and anxiety which we know we have a high level of academic stress here at Campo,” said Walker.

Magno hopes that the wellness center “streamlines a lot of the services that we already have in place” by helping students realize that besides a school counselor, there are a lot of other beneficial services the school offers.

The change comes on the heels of recent instances of school violence that have received national attention, as well as recent incidents at Campolindo involving cyber bullying, all of which are related to student emotional health. “It’s a good time to start. We’ve been needing it for years,” said Barakos.

Junior Sabrina Fojut said, “I think that we live in a really stressful area and school is really highly demanding so I think having a wellness center will be a good thing if you’re just stressed or want to talk with someone.”

Barakos, who has worked at schools with an integrated counseling system, is optimistic that the wellness center will create a relaxed environment for all students to openly talk about their issues. “Counseling shouldn’t be something that people feel like something’s wrong with them if they need that help. Counseling can help everybody and people need a place to take a break,” he said.

“I think anything that we’re doing to reach more students to take away the stigma of ‘Things aren’t going well’ and ‘I need help’ those are always positive steps that I think we can take,” said Magno.