Hear from the co-leader of Pingry's Student Wellness Club about a recent event she attended that gave her and fellow club members new ideas.
By Eve Gilbert '20
This past February, I, along with two of my Student Wellness Club co-leaders—Caroline Schuessler '20 and Sofia Lombardo '20—and our Student Body President, Brian Li '20, travelled to Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA) to attend a meeting focused on the issues of mental health in high schools. The President and Vice President of the student body at MKA invited student leaders from six high schools (both public and private) in the surrounding area. Each group of students was asked to give a quick presentation on what their school does to support students' mental health, and areas they hope their school can improve upon.
Sofia and I presented to the group about some of the activities and programs Pingry has implemented. This included therapy dogs coming to school during stressful times (during exams, for example), initiatives to improve access to school counselors, flex periods, and a change this school year to an 8:30 a.m. start time. Brian then discussed some of the wellness issues that Pingry students face, talking primarily about students trying to stay mentally well while also performing well academically in such a high-achieving high school environment.
We were then able to listen to the other high schools and heard about some great initiatives they are implementing. We got some great ideas that we were hoping to implement this school year, but because of COVID-19, are hoping Pingry can implement next year. For example, we would like to implement a "technology-free day" once a month. This would mean that for the entire school day, students would be asked to keep their phones in their backpacks, and teachers would be asked to teach classes without the use of any technology. Following the tech-free day, we would like that school night to be a homework-free and tech-free night (upheld by the student in accordance with our Honor Code).
We would also like to implement a wellness week at school in which each day, the student body would do a wellness-related activity such as yoga or meditation, and have a speaker come in at the end of the week to discuss mental health. While these initiatives will not fix all mental health challenges, we are hoping they will provide Pingry students with a way to de-stress and take a break from their busy lives by focusing on their personal well-being.
Attending this conference at MKA was a great way for me to see how much progress our generation is making in caring for each other and ourselves. The conference also provided me with a greater appreciation for Pingry. We heard from students at other schools who didn't even know their advisors, and I left the meeting feeling very grateful that my advisor at Pingry knows me very well and is always checking in on me. I am also greatly appreciative for Ms. Chatterji, Upper School Director, and Dr. Rosen, Basking Ridge Campus counselor, for being so eager and willing to work with the Student Wellness Club to bring new initiatives to Pingry. That being said, there is still a lot of progress that we can make at the school, but I am excited to see where our ideas will bring us!
As we venture forward into weeks of isolation due to COVID-19, we encourage everyone to think about both their physical and mental health. The Student Wellness Club is continuing to work with the Pingry administration to see what we can do to help keep spirits high during a difficult time! Caroline, Rylie Drozjock '20, Sofia, and I spend our time planning these activities and new school initiatives because we want our peers to be supported, and to know they are not alone. I am so glad we were able to attend this conference and hopefully bring back some ideas for Pingry to implement in the future!
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org