GHS Education and Wellness Center
GHS Education and Wellness Center (“The Center”) Awarded Second Year of Alliance Reaching Out Grant Funding
“Our investment (through our Reaching Out Grant Program) in the Center continues because of the experienced and dedicated staff of Greenwich High School special education teachers, social workers, and psychologists who are helping students who need mental health supports or other comprehensive services reach academic success”, explains Julie Faryniarz, Executive Director.
This year GHS students have the option of attending school fully remotely or in a cohort with 2 days in school and 3 days remote. For 70 students in the Center who take part in academic programming or Effective School Solutions (ESS) programming, those who are eligible, are attending school in-person 4 days a week and are benefiting from this structure.
The Center officially opened in the Fall of 2019 to provide high quality comprehensive services to students in therapeutic and structured surroundings in order to support positive mental-health and academic outcomes. There is a focus in the Center to enhance collaboration with community agencies to reduce barriers to existing services.
Thank you to Dr. Lorraine Termini (now retired) who spearheaded the opening of the Center. Tom Pereira, Dean of Student Life, Danielle Polizzi (social worker), Jennifer Benoit (special education teacher) and Piera Cronin (psychologist) are leading and managing the Center.
Greenwich High School believes the Center is an essential part of student support systems. “Schools need to create a safe and nurturing school environment, supporting the physical and mental health of children, fostering their social and emotional well-being, and being prepared to address teen suicide through effective communication and support (NASSP, 2018).”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2018)
- 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness
- 20% of youths ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition
- 11% of youth have a mood disorder
- 10% of youth have a behavior or conduct disorder
- 8% of youth have an anxiety disorder
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24 (90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness)
By addressing the comprehensive and increasingly complex needs of our students, GHS believes students will be more likely to attend classes, actively engage in learning, participate in school activities, develop supportive and caring connections to peers and adults, use acceptable problem-solving skills, engage in non-aggressive behaviors and add to a positive school climate.
“Thanks to the funding from the Alliance, we started the year welcoming students back with personalized pencil cases that contained school and COVID supplies,” expressed Jennifer Benoit. It is especially important for the students in the Center to not fall behind in their work and the additional Chromebooks purchased with the Reaching Out Grant funds allow students to borrow a device when technical issues occur.
The grant funded an extra supply of calculators for students who are unable to purchase their own due to parents losing their jobs or having been furloughed. The Center also purchased Rocket books to explore different executive functioning means with students and stand up desks to provide options in classes spatially distanced.
The Center is working closely with community agencies to best serve students within pandemic restraints. Kids in Crisis and Liberation Programs have begun their work and the Center has connected distanced learners to the learning pods held at the Boys and Girls Club and at CCI. The Center team is also working with GHS house-based teams to identify supports for students struggling with distance learning.
Currently the Center is proposing a learning pod to be held on the Greenwich High School campus after school. This would be open to fully remote, cohorts, and 4 day scheduled students. The rationale is that students can access additional instructional support to supplement the needs arising from remote learning. The possible benefit of Mental Health services being available after school hours will also be explored.
GHS Social Worker, Danielle Polizzi at Center opening ceremony (courtesy of the Greenwich Time)
Learning space in the Education and Wellness Center
Wellness Center supplies