AHS Wellness Center Q&A

Dhruti Kulkarni, Staff Writer

Arcadia High School recently unveiled its new Wellness Center, started and directed by Dr. Deja Anderson, one of the counselors on campus. The space is located in A-Building, in the middle of the counseling office. It is open to all students during lunch and after school, and can be visited during the school day with a pass. The center is a small, cozy space, characterized by its comfortable seating and warm atmosphere. It’s part of Dr. Anderson’s initiative to prioritize and facilitate good mental health, provide students with opportunities to learn more about their mental and emotional needs, and offer them a break from stressful environments. 

I asked students about their thoughts on the Wellness Center, and how they plan to utilize it.
“I go to the Wellness Center every day. It is one of the only places I find relaxing at school. It helps me calm down, and allows me to spend time detached from the active chaos going on in school halls,” said sophomore Ekaterina Medvedeva.
I also asked Dr. Anderson a few questions about the Center:

Dhruti Kulkarni: Was there any specific reason that made you decide to establish a Wellness Center?

Dr. Anderson: Well, I wish I could take all the credit, but really, this was an idea from Ms. Dillman [principal of AHS] and the other counselors at our school. They were seeing a need for our students to have a place to go to when they’re stressed, to not necessarily have to go to the bathroom to deal with their emotions, so from that need of our students, that’s how the center came to be. We were actually going to open the center in the 2020 school year, but then March ‘20 happened, so we ended up changing the format.

Dhruti: What are some examples of activities that you plan on doing throughout the year?

Dr. Anderson: So one of the things that I want to do is host something called Wellness Wednesdays, just practicing mindfulness, because they say that mindfulness kind of helps us become present, and it’s just a good way to start your day. We’ll have chair yoga, mindful meditation, and muscle relaxation. I’m also wanting to work with different student groups, to host workshops and presentations around mental health. The reason I want to work with students and student groups is because you all know what it is you’re going through, and what it is we can help you with. We have a student panel about mental health coming up in a couple of weeks, and we had a group reach out to me because they want to partner together, as well.

Dhruti: How did the virtual Wellness Center work, and how will this one be similar/different to that one?

Dr. Anderson: For the virtual Wellness Center, we hosted a lot of workshops that took place after school, and there was also a virtual room for students to utilize. I think what will be similar to last year is that we still want to hold workshops for our students. I think what will be different is that we have the physical space, and I think with the physical space, we’ll have more students accessing it, versus virtually, I can’t say student’s weren’t accessing it, but since it was a website, I don’t know how much traffic we had.

Dhruti: How is the current student turnout for the Wellness Center, and how do you expect it to change?

Dr. Anderson: Right now, we’re getting a good amount of students to come in; a lot of our students do come in during lunch and after school. Because we want to make sure students are taking care of themselves but still at the same time going to class, we do tell students that if they need to use it during class, it needs to be specific. That’s how they’re able to access it during class time. So we are getting a good amount of traffic, and I hope for it to stay at least at the number it’s at, or grow, once students get more comfortable with the concept, and say, yeah, I’ll go use the Wellness Center.

Dhruti: Do you have any closing/final remarks or comments?

Dr. Anderson: One thing I’ve noticed being here at Arcadia is that often students don’t think a lot about their mental health, they put a lot on their plates, they have a lot of stress, and I just want to make sure that they move mental health up to the top of their plates and that they’re taking care of themselves. I think that just having this conversation more and more, because I think that the more that we talk about it, the more normal it becomes. I think it’s just growing the conversation and normalizing it.


Graphic by Vanessa Valentino