Gabrielino High student Lauren Chiou.
Gabrielino High student Lauren Chiou.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Kits.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Kits.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
San Gabriel USD Wellness Center.
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Wellness center welcomes students
One San Gabriel Unified student didn’t let COVID interrupt efforts to serve her peers’ mental health needs
January 10, 2022
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Student anxiety and depression are an epidemic in schools. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made student mental health more important than ever, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression is a “major problem” among their peers. In 2016, nearly two-thirds of college students reported “overwhelming anxiety.”
“We were calling this a mental health crisis before the pandemic. Now it’s a state of emergency,” said Amir Whitaker, policy counsel of the ACLU of Southern California. “Our youth are really struggling.”
In order to address this issue, the San Gabriel Unified School District has made student wellness and mental health a priority by creating a District Wellness Council and promoting programs such as Mental Health Wellness Days. One of the district’s goals was to create a Wellness Center on campus to provide students with a safe, quiet area to lower stress and anxiety. Wellness Centers also serve as the central location on campus for mental health and counseling services.
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Student Lauren Chiou focused on student mental health for her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. As a junior at Gabrielino High School and a Girl Scout Ambassador in Troop 691, Lauren partnered with new Gabrielino High School Wellness Center Counselor Chris Saporito to furnish and set up the Wellness Center Lounge. Through a generous donation from Home Depot and money Lauren raised from 10 years of Girl Scout cookie sales, she was able to purchase lounge chairs, coffee tables, a rug, house plants and wellness supplies to help create the relaxing space. However, it soon became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would present unforeseen problems when it came to the implementation of her project.

During the 2020-21 school year when campuses were closed and students were unable to visit the Wellness Center in person, Lauren felt it was important to bring the Wellness Center to students. Thus came the creation of Wellness Kits. With help from businesses (Trader Joe’s, Target, Costco, and Smart & Final), Lauren created Wellness Kits for Gabrielino students that included stress-relieving supplies (sleep masks, stress balls, etc.), herbal tea and a healthy snack. She also designed a Wellness Center resource card with the Virtual Wellness Center link and a QR code to a relaxing Spotify playlist her troop helped her create. With the assistance of Wellness Counselor Saporito, Lauren reached out to students and over 130 of them signed up to receive a Wellness Kit. With assistance from school administrators and her troop, Lauren coordinated and distributed the kits in a school parking lot drive-through. Recognizing the stress of the pandemic on district staff, Lauren also distributed kits to teachers and administrators.
“Every day, when I put out the welcome sign in front of the center, or provide a cup of tea for the students, I think of Lauren and am thankful for her help.”
— Chris Saporito, Gabrielino Wellness Center Counselor
At a presentation of the Wellness Kit and Wellness Center to the school board, SGUSD Governing Board member Gary Scott shared the impact the Wellness Kit project has had on students. Lauren’s Wellness Kits were received with gratitude and big smiles. Those involved in the wellness project learned that a strong impact can be made by simply showing students they are important and someone cares about them.
Lauren’s kits helped pave the way for students to be aware of the Wellness Center when they returned to campus for the 2021-22 school year. Lauren’s help with publicity and mental health awareness also played a large role in the acceptance of the Wellness Center services by both staff and students. In the first three months of school, there have been more than 1,300 visits to the Wellness Center, and almost 500 individual students (about one-third of the student population) have visited the center. The students are coming in and frequently commenting on the welcoming environment as well as the comfortable furniture.
“Every day, when I put out the welcome sign in front of the center, or provide a cup of tea for the students, I think of Lauren and am thankful for her help,” Saporito said.
By addressing the stigma around student mental health early in high school, SGUSD students will know how to better manage their stress and the pressure to succeed in school and in life. Having a Wellness Center Lounge on campus will give students ways to cope in the short term and resources to resolve and cope with issues in the long run. Most importantly, learning strategies to develop mental and physical health gives students the tools to develop positive self-esteem and healthy relationships with others. By giving students the tools to develop mental and physical health, the hope is they will be more empathetic and able to help others who may be suffering as well.
The San Gabriel Unified School District will continue to explore innovative and inclusive wellness center practices, expanding wellness centers in all schools, and continue to focus on enriching the students’ daily lives while contributing to their well-being.
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