BY COLIN CRAWFORD
During the new school year, the Bay has expanded on many initiatives geared toward helping students maintain and better their mental health. As the Social Emotional Learning initiative (SEL) requires that students receive ten minutes of social-emotional training every day, administrative Specialist and Equity Liaison Nori Suarez creates daily lesson plans for teachers to utilize.
“The message goes out to the entire faculty and staff,” Suarez said. “The intention is that all of us can benefit from SEL to help us gain balance between school, extra-curricular activities, friends, family [and] even work.”
Each day of the school week has a designated theme and activity and Suarez said this helps keep it fresh for students. She said the lesson is supposed to be administered during the second or sixth period depending on the day, because all students are online and in-class at that time, so students who have the privilege of dual enrollment still get the lesson.
“We will continue to intertwine SEL with our wonderful academic curriculum; achievement is something that we are incredibly proud of at the Bay,” Suarez said. “But we are also aware that a student’s mental and physical well-being is essential and a prerequisite to academic success.”
The Mind Body Ambassador Program is a county-wide initiative to help students practice mindfulness. Senior Jake Miller, one of the leaders of the Mind Body branch at the Bay, said he loves teaching others about mindfulness because it is a positive feedback loop of good energy.
“The best part is seeing students [overcoming] abrasion and apprehension towards mindfulness, overcoming the stigma, enjoying the practice, [and] incorporating [it] into their lives, and feeling motivated and propelled by the attributions and effects of it to teach others,” Miller said. “Mindfulness really does function best in an integrated and a connected community where one ambassador teaches a friend, who teaches a teacher, who teaches a sibling until there is a whole community who practices and becomes more kind and compassionate.”
Guidance Counselor and adviser of the Mind Body Club Rosa Mazzocca said she also thinks teaching students about the benefits of strengthening their mental health is essential to creating a truly healthy student body. She said she would love to teach more techniques to help students cope with the stresses of life.
“I wish I could spend more time educating students about mental health and the use of mindfulness and mind body medicine skills to manage stress and anxiety,” Mazzocca said. “Educating students, teachers and staff about mental health contributes to increasing awareness about [it], and it also helps to reduce the stigma associated with mental health disorders, as students become aware of the signs and symptoms of different mental health disorders, as well [as] of the different resources available at the school level and in the community.”
Suarez said the administration at the Bay did not waste time and efficiently rolled out the expansion of the county initiative to all classes. She said even though the Bay is known for academics, students must prioritize mental health as well.
“It did not take long to get the ball rolling because we, as an entire school, have been doing SEL through our P.A.S.L. study hall classes [Personalized, Academic, Social & Emotional Learning],” Suarez said. “So the only new thing now is that it goes to all study halls, not just the ones that are designated as P.A.S.L.”