Natomas Pacific launches Wellness Wednesday to improve social emotional learning



Akshaj Mehta, Natomas Pacific Pathways Preparatory

Wellness Wednesdays is a new initiative at Natomas Pacific Pathways Preparatory High School (NP3) launched to improve social emotional learning.

School staff implemented the  new program during the schoolwide advisory period, a daily class that aims to build a sense of community at NP3.

“In the safety of their advisory space, students will learn how to emotionally regulate themselves and how to interact with others in healthy ways,” said Melissa Ciubal, freshman advisor at NP3.  “They first need to be mentally self-aware enough and emotionally well enough to care for themselves in order to absorb and retain academic content taught in their classes.” 

However, students have mixed opinions on the program’s effectiveness.

“I feel that Wellness Wednesdays are unnecessary, and there are better ways of promoting wellbeing without wasting a student’s time,” said Ryan Masih, a senior at NP3.

He added, “In class, most of the students have other things that are a more useful way of spending their time, such as working on senior projects or doing the assignment planned by the teacher. Many teachers have their own way of teaching and connecting to students, and by forcing teachers to do wellness Wednesdays with a pre-made framework, you are not helping the students on learning about mental health.”

Activities for Wellness Wednesdays include the Circle of Power and Respect, self esteem improvement activities, and discussions about bullying. Some students do believe in the benefits of the program.

I appreciate being able to slow down and reflect on Wellness Wednesdays,” said Mariah Havaner, senior at NP3. “As teenagers our lives can be really stressful, so having days to reflect on our feelings can help us understand ourselves and how we cope better.” 

Havaner said that while it’s still important, some of the wellness activities may seem childish in theory, causing mixed opinions among students.

“I think that there is strife surrounding Wellness Wednesdays because although it is important to learn how to regulate our emotions, it also shouldn’t feel forced,” said Havaner. “A lot of the Wellness Wednesday activities are helpful in theory, but might seem childish when it comes to applying those lessons to high schoolers.” 

Noah Crocker, another senior at NP3, echoed these thoughts.

I think many others hold the same sentiment,” he said. “The activities may be appropriate for middle-school or early high-school aged students, but we are adults at the end of the day. It’s also taking time away from something that our graduation depends on. The fact that it’s mandatory only helps to cause further strife, at least I think.”

Still, Havaner acknowledged the value of the program’s chief goal: to promote mental health amongst students, especially after the pandemic.

During distance learning, I know that many students were struggling with poor emotional and mental health, so I think the school is trying to teach students how to understand and deal with their feelings,” said Havaner. 

Ciubal said the program has produced positive results.

Yes, I have seen improvements in my classes,” she said. “Students seem to be better self-advocates, are more aware of mental health and how to deal with stress, and are better at managing conflicts, honoring confidentiality, articulating feelings, regulating emotions, and respecting and acknowledging each other’s differences.”