The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Wellness works

Instead of sitting in their usual advisory classrooms on Nov. 15, high school students got to choose from a wide assortment of unique wellness activities in which to participate. These activities ranged from yoga and mindfulness to origami making. The Health and Wellness Fellows are largely responsible for making this special programming possible.

These fellows are a group of 10 students chosen by Co-Directors of the Upper School Health and Wellness Center, Melissa Gartner and Rachel Soifer, to enhance the student body’s exposure to the many health and wellness issues facing students today.

“We wanted to prioritize and focus on bringing students into this process with a very active leadership role,” Soifer said. “We make sure that whatever it is that we’re planning and delivering to students, there’s a student voice in it.”

Junior Samantha Shapiro is one of the Wellness Fellows, and part of her job is to help organize and execute ideas and projects revolving around wellness within the Upper School.

“I joined the club because I’m passionate about mental health,” Shapiro said. “I want to make an impact [on] my friends and peers.”

Students interested in becoming a Wellness Fellow completed an application and an interview. Applicants had to demonstrate an interest in health and wellness and leadership abilities. Fellows are required to participate in all commitments that come with the position. This includes attending weekly meetings and leading one significant Health and Wellness program during the year.

Along with general assistance, fellows must support Gartner and Soifer with any other Health and Wellness events by dedicating time outside of school in order to complete any task necessary for the program’s research, development and execution.

Implementing Wellness Wednesdays this year is a big part of the program’s impact on the student body and faculty. Replacing JDS students’ weekly advisory once a month, the Wellness Fellows invite speakers to educate the student body. In October, the high school hosted Dr. Beth Weinstock about fentanyl with a follow-up Narcan training.

Weinstock’s son, Eli, passed away in March of 2021. He was later found to have ingested fentanyl. Weinstock came to JDS to share her son’s story and the dangers and uncertainties of drugs.

“The speakers have been very moving, and it’s important that we have people come and talk to teens today about pressing issues,” freshman Lilah Sacks said. “I thought the Narcan training was super good and super important for teens to learn today, in case they’re ever in a desperate situation, or someone they know is, they can save a life with the training.”

One of the main attractions of the Health and Wellness Center is the role it provides to the students. Fellows are able to exercise leadership skills and take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about their community’s mental and physical well-being.

“They [students] have an opportunity to develop leadership in an area that they have a lot of passion about,” Soifer said. “It helps that interaction and that relationship between adults and students in the community to shape and lead programs.”

The first Wednesday of December was focused on continuing the education on substance abuse. The fellows organized information sessions specific for each grade, keeping in mind what kind of information would be most beneficial to educate each grade on. For example, the freshman will be having an information session about alcohol, vaping and different kinds of drugs.

The goal of the fellowship is to incorporate student voices into the school. Gartner and Soifer felt it was crucial to involve students to personalize the program and make it more accessible to the rest of the student body. The Health and Wellness Center allows students to practice leadership and explore subjects they are interested in.

“I’m personally hoping to see a little bit of an increase in mental health awareness around the school and more students and faculty and staff being able to work together to help each other,” Shapiro said.

The Health and Wellness Center is a place the students can turn to in times of struggle. The fellows work together to ensure that there is a place at JDS where students can turn to if they need help.

“We’re extraordinarily proud of our program and our Fellows,” Gartner said. “They are wonderful leaders in our community, and we value all of their contributions to the school.”

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