Mental health and wellness counselor Rachel Andrews starts a wellness center

Photo courtesy of SCDPPS

Photo courtesy of SCDPPS

For the first time in its history, RUHS will be launching a Wellness Center, a safe space on campus where students can relax and destress, according to the school’s mental health and wellness counselor, Rachel Andrews.

“I think it’s something that they always wanted to have here. We were the only premier South Bay school that didn’t really have [a Wellness Center],” Andrews said.

After extra government funding from COVID-19 created the mental health and wellness counseling position at RUHS, Andrews was “really excited,” as it was a role she had long been advocating for. In this role, Andrews will be running the Wellness Center, which she hopes will act as a go-to place for students in need of a mental break.

“At the Wellness Center, the goal is for students to decompress in a judgement-free zone,” Andrews said. “Whatever it is that’s on your mind that you’re trying to come to peace with and deal with, the Wellness Center will help get you to that place where you’re ready to do it.”

Andrews plans on having the Wellness Center open for anyone anytime, especially during nutrition and lunch, and will always be available for individual counseling, which will mainly take place during class time. Aside from offering counseling, Andrews will be releasing Panorama surveys, which pertain to education, to the students in order to get input on their needs and what she should do and include in the Wellness Center.

“I highly encourage everybody to take the Panorama survey when it’s pushed out and to be honest about it because I’m going to look at every single person’s responses. Students are going to change every year and the needs are going to change every year,” Andrews said. “I think the most important thing is that we’re always assessing and evaluating what students want and need and how we can provide it.”

Andrews not only values student feedback, but she also sees the importance in the success of the Wellness Center, which currently only has funding for two years.

“I think it’s so important that it’s successful so that we continue to have a space like this and a person for students forever,” Andrews said. “Having the center 100% funded for the students helps create a sense of peace and just overall connection on campus and helps kids feel appreciated.” 

Currently, the Wellness Center is an empty space, a light and airy room with numerous windows. Soon however, it will be filled with artwork, carpets, couches and yoga mats, as well as calming music and the scent of essential oils.

“I really want it to be a very welcoming and inviting space that has the ability for anybody to come in and feel relaxed,” Andrews said.

On various days, Andrews will have guest speakers come into the Wellness Center and talk about different mental health topics. Going forward, she also plans on having a distinct mental health theme and focus each month in the Wellness Center, and will host workshops tied to that focus. 

Andrews feels that the Wellness Center, which will be COVID-19 safe by requiring masks, having air purifiers going, opening the windows and wiping down furniture, will have a powerful and helpful impact on the students and the school, as she views mental health as something that is “so so so important.” 

Counseling intern Morgen Spires, who will be in the Wellness Center every Thursday and Friday helping Andrews run it, feels similarly about the Wellness Center and the positive effect it will have. Spires looks forward to helping students and being someone they can talk to at the Wellness Center, which will be located in the CTE building next to the Journalism room and is set to open later in September.

I know when I was in high school I didn’t have a Wellness Center, so I’m excited that this will be available for students,” Spires said. “I hope that students utilize it, and I hope that through it we are able to help people turn bad days into good days.”