Sandy Davis -
Project Name: DBHS Wellness Center Program
Team Members: David Hong: Wellness Center Supervisor
Sandy Davis: Wellness Center Coordinator and Educator
Stacey Woodward: School Site Psychologist
School Name: Diamond Bar High School
School Size and Description: Approximately 3,000+ students serving grades 9 – 12 in the Walnut Valley Unified School District located in Los Angeles County
Location: Diamond Bar, California
By: Sandy Davis
When requested to write this blog, I was eager to do so, but immediately found myself challenged to concisely capture the history of how we arrived at creating our project. In a nutshell, my school team’s current mission is simple. We are endeavoring to be cultural change agents.
Ok, so that’s actually not so simple.
Our school site is taking the lead on promoting a cultural shift within our district to endorse social emotional learning (SEL) as an imperative to better educate and prepare our students beyond the classroom. Our project includes creating and piloting a campus wellness center program that provides educational resources and peer counseling services available for all students. Our primary focus is to educate students to take personal responsibility for their own social emotional wellness choices with the assistance of trained peer wellness consultants.
As educators, we all understand that constructive systemic change takes informed vision and inspired leadership. Without passionate commitment, positive energy and tons of patience, most projects are doomed to flounder. As a veteran educator and long-time SEL advocate, I concede the challenges our American culture poses which values rational thought over emotional intelligence, and it has been a tough sell for most of my educational career especially in a traditional school setting.
A few years ago, I was thrilled to learn that my site administrative team was brainstorming how to address the student issues shared by staff district-wide. Teachers from every school site were reporting their growing concerns about their students’ inability to appropriately manage their stress and social interactions, as well as their evident lack of resiliency, which often negatively impacted their academic performance. When our administrative team discussed the potential of developing a campus wellness center, I eagerly submitted my proposal to be considered for the position to research and develop this pioneering program. With the support of my administrative supervisor and assistance of my school site psychologist and after eight months of endless planning, the Diamond Bar High School Wellness Center was open to students on February 1, 2016.
The response from our students, staff, and district and community stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Due to the acknowledgement of the high need of this type of program, we exceeded our expectations by achieving all of our first year goals and many of our second year goals. We have established two community partnerships, been invited to present our wellness program at the upcoming California School Boards Association Conference, been contacted by neighboring districts for tours, and most importantly, have been delighted with the compelling data collected that our students who are utilizing the center are significantly benefitting. (If you would like to learn more about our program, please feel free to visit our website: www.dbhswellnesscenter.com )
As one of the 2016 InspirED Change Maker Award winners, our team is excited to accept this incredible honor and invitation to attend the SEL Summit in October. Being recognized with this award has helped to legitimize our mission to evolve and provide a Wellness Center Program that focuses on the promotion and delivery of social emotional learning for our students.
A very heartfelt thank you to our sponsors!
Lately, I’ve been feeling especially grateful that my last years in education will be focused on the work I am most passionate about and to be just a small contributor to this evolving movement which has revitalized me to reach out and engage others in this meaningful venture. As I reflect back, the most compelling factor that encouraged me to continue my direct teaching and modeling SEL competencies as the foundation of my instructional practice was the students themselves.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I believe that the key to making significant gains for our teens is to include them as essential partners in their own educational journey. As co-investors in their social emotional literacy, teens have more buy-in and are motivated by their growing authentic self esteem. They are our strongest allies in creating the change needed to promote resilient, confident, competent high school graduates prepared to share their talents and contributions with the world.
Ok, so most definitely my school team’s current mission isn’t so simple…but my message to any educator who is curious about the benefits of SEL in their teaching approach is! The future of SEL looks so exciting and promising! With supportive organizations like Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Facebook, there are even more resources and opportunities available for educators and their students.
I enthusiastically invite educators to investigate SEL as a viable approach to engage their students in an enriching learning experience that promotes social emotional mastery. Your students will be your most inspired partners, so be sure to include them in the brainstorming and executing a meaning-filled project that will benefit your school culture. Good luck!