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As students enter the familiar Palo Alto High School Tower Building, the calming trickle of a fountain lures them into a hidden oasis, the Wellness Center, tucked away in what was once the health office. Students step into the soothing center and are greeted by an assortment of cozy couches, rejuvenating snacks and beverages, hypnotic coloring books and moldable sand.
This new Wellness Center, created to help foster a more positive atmosphere at Paly, is planning a grand opening for later this month.
According to Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator Jonathan Frecceri, the Wellness Center is a place for students to reach out for support.
“The Wellness Center is a starting point for all things related to health or to well-being,” Frecceri said. “It doesn’t matter why you’re here, we’re glad you’re here.”
The goal of the center is to provide for students social and emotional needs, while consolidating those services under one umbrella, according to Frecceri.
“For students, it streamlines the process,” Frecceri said. “A student could come into the Wellness Center because they need to see Jennifer [school nurse] to get an ice pack, or they feel sick, or they could have a crisis and they need to talk to somebody like a therapist. It doesn’t matter, it could be anything.”
To help with the many kinds of issues that students face, the Wellness Center team is comprised of three main staff members from a variety of fields: nurse Jennifer Kleckner, clinician Frecceri and outreach worker Julia Chang.
“I greet students as they come into the Wellness Center and help them navigate the services, but I’m also really focusing on bringing health and wellness out onto the campus,” Chang said. “Things like health education events, and getting the word out on how to stay healthy and how to practice wellness in your everyday life to students.”
According to Chang, the center is more than just a place to decompress and relax. The wellness staff is working to bring more features and services to the Wellness Center and is looking forward to continuing to improve throughout the school year. These events include bringing organizations and professionals such as Planned Parenthood and dietitians onto campus and even passing out short recipes for healthy snacks for when students head home at the end of a long day.
“To me that’s what a Wellness Center is all about, a place that says ‘this matters to us, it matters that our youth are well,'” Frecceri said. “It’s not an illness center. We need to talk about how to get well, and be well.”