First Wellness Friday for Students a Success


Students prepare to partake in Yoga with Mr. Pena

Alexis Holmes, Correspondent

On February 19, St. Joseph hosted its very first Wellness Friday for juniors and seniors, followed by a second Wellness Friday on February 26 for freshmen and sophomores. None of the students had any idea what we would be doing this day, as we were told to just come to school with an open mind. All the students were split up into little groups with different orders to follow.

There were four different activity stations, the first one being a presentation and discussion on Black History Month.

In the Black History Month activities, we learned about how our voices make a humongous difference when we actually speak up about situations. We watched a few TED talks about how our silence is worse than then anything you could possibly say, and that when we shut out our voice we shut out our rights as well. After we watched these TED Talks, we all were given a list of African-American figures who we could choose from learn more about. Once everybody picked their own individual person to research, we all started writing a short paper about who they were and what impact they had on society and how they overcame color discrimination.

The second activity assigned was yoga, and walking into the gym no one really knew what to expect. We have never done anything remotely close to this before so many people were slightly skeptical, and walking into the gym we saw about 15 yoga mats laid out throughout the gym (socially distanced of course) and a projecting screen in front of us. My group was filled with five people and walking into this at least four out of the five really didn’t want to do this, but once we started, I feel that the interest increased greatly. By the end, students said they felt much more relaxed and had let go of any tension they had.

The third activity that we went to was one led by social workers. In this activity, we were asked questions about school, family life, covid, stress, copping skills good and bad, and what is effective and ineffective for us. This was the time where people truly started to open up about how they were feeling and why they felt that way. In this small group we also talked about ways to manage stress and some things that we can do to get out of our head for a minute. We also tried a guided reading meditation: first we started by closing our eyes  and allowing our mind me drift off to wherever the reading wanted us to go. The reading meditation lasted for about 8 to 10 minutes and once we have finished almost everyone in the room felt like a huge burden was lifted from them, feeling more relaxed and more excited and spontaneous for our future and wherever we decide to take it.

The fourth and final activity for Wellness Friday was a journaling and writing activity, and by the end of the day everybody was more open and more enlightened by the other activities where people were able to dig as deep as they wanted to for this last one. After watching a few videos, we had the opportunity to write down an injustice or situation that we felt was either under looked or something that touched us specifically and write either a poem, song, story, etc. The journals were ours to keep and they take away from this assignment was to hopefully give us some reason to write down our feelings and to use this journal when there are things that we don’t want to say to others. We had a few people that wanted to present their work to the class and share how they felt.

Ms. Pool was in charge of putting together Wellness Friday and she spoke of her motivation behind putting together such a day for the students.

“In November, Mrs. McGleam, Mrs. Palumbo and I put together Wellness Wednesdays for teachers,” Ms. Pool said. “We gave them healthy treats and tips on how to stay healthy – both emotionally and physically during stressful situations.”

She added that since there was a positive response from the teachers, they would try the same thing with the students.

“Since the students have been working so hard in school and at home, we wanted to provide a relaxing day for students to reflect on how they are feeling and learn about the importance of journaling, movement and yoga,” Ms. Pool added. “It was also Black History Month, and I wanted the workshops to help promote why your voice matters and how you can be heard in your own community.”

Finally, she said she was happy with how the students responded to it and felt that, because this school year has been hard on everyone involved, it would be nice to give students a chance to mentally reset and just have some time to clear their heads without having to worry about tests, essays or homework.

“This is not a traditional school year, and it breaks my heart that students must wear a mask, socially distance themselves in class, and are not able to participate in normal social events,” Ms. Pool said. “I wanted this to be a day for them to relax and have a little fun outside of academic classes.”