At the top of the P-building, students can find a wide room with cozy chairs, sofas, low tables and relaxing music. This wide room is known as the Wellness Center, a place on campus for students to play board games, relax or finish their homework. Today, the Wellness Center has other amenities including a board filled with encouraging messages, a large TV that displays beautiful scenery, and snacks.
The Wellness Center was opened and completed in Aug. 2016 and was initially located near the Batcave offices. Wellness Coordinator Michelle Ramos recalls the center’s original purpose. “[The Wellness Center] was [created] for suicide prevention and featured a structured program for counseling and mental health awareness,” she said. The initial purpose of the Wellness Center has been sustained and expanded on to the three major goals: being the hub of all prevention, normalizing the experience of navigating mental health issues and reaching students from diverse backgrounds, according to Wellness Outreach Specialist Rossana Castillo.
In 2019, the center was relocated to the second floor of the P-building. Both Ramos and Castillo believe that the move was beneficial. Castillo commented on the increased benefits. “We have a brighter and open space,” she said. “It’s also better since it’s located at the center of campus, which contributes to the space feeling more homely and accessible.”
Additionally, Ramos mentioned how the new space provided new services. “We have a large space where students can come for not just appointments with therapists, but for social connection, to meet peers for lunch and to sit on the patio,” she said. “We also have an aisle space—a quiet private area—allowing an expansion of our services.”
The Wellness Center runs various programs including Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY), drop-in sessions and school-wide presentations. CASSY is a free, confidential counseling service for students during school hours. Students can schedule appointments with school-based therapists. Alternatively, the center also hosts drop-in sessions. “If you’re having a bad day and need somewhere to sit and talk to someone who’s not judgemental and keeps things private, we have drop-in services,” she said. “You can come in during the day and ask, ‘Hey, I need to talk to someone,’ and we can get you a room with a therapist who can just help you process stuff out loud.”
Senior Hayden Zhu spoke about how therapy at the Wellness Center has helped him mentally “It allowed me to more clearly think about my problems,” he said. “They provide coping mechanisms and help ease worries. Everybody should have at least somebody to talk about these things and not ball things inside.”
This leads to another goal of the Wellness Center: raising awareness. The center hosts several presentations about wellness topics throughout the year. Zhu believes that the Wellness Center, however, can promote their campaigns more. “People know where it is and what they do, but [not] what they offer,” he said. “The present events are good ideas, but they are underpromoted. I think they can try collaborating with other classes like video production to produce videos.”
In the future, Castillo revealed that the center plans on raising awareness about wellness and mental health among parents. “We want to communicate with parents and be empathetic of students,” she said. “Previously, we planned a workshop for parents and students and their relationship and for parents to understand student life and health. It was canceled because of the pandemic, but it’s something that I want to bring back and possibly do at the beginning of every year.”
The Wellness Center is partnering with To Be Honest (TBH) to provide access to a virtual support group with five to ten people so students could freely converse, work on social skills and talk through what they are going through. Castillo believes that it will be a great opportunity for students to realize that they are not alone in their struggles.
The Wellness Center is an accessible, free and helpful resource for students. Zhu encourages students to utilize it. “Some people have misconceptions about the Wellness Center—how it’s for kids who are really depressed—but it’s not,” he said. “ Don’t be afraid to visit—the center is very inclusive and you can even drop in just for a snack or to have a 15-minute break from class.”