Miramonte Wellness Center Supports Students During Pandemic

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(Ania Keenan, Photographer)
The Miramonte Wellness Center, located in the center of the school campus, is home to several clubs, resource centers and the Miramonte Student Union.

    The sound of boiling water plays over soft pop music and the rustle of papers. Grabbing a disposable cup, you notice on the side of each cup is a handwritten motivational quote. You pour your tea and return to your spot on one of the many couches that take up the center of the Miramonte Wellness Center. After a year of distance learning, the Wellness Center has become an increasingly popular resource for students and staff transitioning back to more “regular” schooling.
    The Center aims to provide students “individual counseling services, support and affinity groups, short cool down visits, lunch time activities, first aid and health supplies,” as stated on its page on the Miramonte website.
    Within a quick walk around the Center, located in the middle of the Miramonte campus, one encounters a wide variety of resources available to students – from stacks of meditation coloring books to gender exploration kits.
    At the front desk, near the entrance to the Center, sits Ellen Zapalac, the Wellness Intake Specialist, who works with students to determine the types of care or resources that will best suit them.
    According to Zapalac, the Center has seen a substantial increase in the number of students using resources, especially independent counseling, since the return from distance learning.
    Zapalac related the increase to the recent cultural awakening around mental health and the trauma of living through a global pandemic as a teenager, a particularly vulnerable time period for most.
    According to Wellness Coordinator Andie Nishimi, the reason behind the increased demand for mental health services coming out of the pandemic is multifaceted.
    First, she cited disturbance to daily life and routine. Second, the disruption of “normal” adolescent development by “interacting with peers or having the opportunity to act independently, nourishing freedom and exploration.”
    Finally, she pointed to how the shared trauma of living through a pandemic may have shifted familial structures.
    “When a teenager is upset and seeks the help of a trusted adult, but that adult does not have the capacity or the skills to help calm down a distressed teenager, the teen gets stuck in a cycle,” said Nishimi.
    Both Zapalac and Nishimi expressed excitement students were taking advantage of the Center’s resources, as well as positive feelings about the road ahead.
    According to Nishimi and Zapalac, the Center also manages educational workshops for students on topics ranging from sexual health to suicide prevention. Both cited workshops as an area where the Wellness Center will continue to “grow and expand,” affirming they are “excited to explore new topics.”
    Nishimi proudly affirmed the transition the Miramonte community has made concerning mental health while saying she hopes awareness will continue to grow in the future: “The Wellness Center is not just a place you go when you need help or are in a crisis,” she said. “I hope people can start to see that wellness is more about empowerment for everyone.”

Ania Keenan can be reached at ania@7keenans.org.






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