Baylor Magazine Article

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Expanding Health and Wellness at Baylor
Barbara Kennedy

As parents and as professionals in the health field, Jenny Green, Middle School instructor, and Rachelle Parman, Upper School instructor, understand that the world is constantly changing, and health and wellness topics are changing along with it.

Staying current on those topics and helping Baylor faculty and the school’s families navigate them is addressed through curriculum and programming. According to Green and Parman, the skills that “stand the test of time” include self-awareness, empathy, self-advocacy, communication, critical thinking, decision making, healthy relationships, stress management, and coping strategies. But as new data and research emerge, subjects within the field of health continue to change. “Technology outpaces our understanding of the long-term consequences to our mental well being. Addressing social media use and the impact it has on the developing brain is a primary area of concern as we strive to stay on top of new research in this new area. Our curriculum is designed to engage teens to think critically about their relationship with technology and possible long-term outcomes,” says Green. “Mental well being and learning how to cope with stress and anxiety have always been addressed in our curriculum. However, increasing awareness in our culture has helped bring new relevance and data to these important topics,” she adds.

It is crucial for Gen Z students to be given layers of support but also the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, see failure as a growth opportunity, and test their ability to be independent.

Parman explains that having a strong sense of self and learning how to deal with stress are two important skills that will help students to prevent and reduce unhealthy behaviors now and as they transition into adulthood. “In addition, it is crucial for Gen Z students to be given layers of support but also the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, see failure as a growth opportunity, and test their ability to be independent.”

Baylor has always supported student health and well being, but as awareness and concerns of mental, social, and emotional health in teens continue to expand at all levels of education throughout the U.S., Baylor’s efforts in this area are also expanding. Two years ago, Baylor expanded the Health & Wellness program, and Green was asked to serve in a new position to oversee the curriculum in grades 6-12 and coordinate programming. This decision has created the opportunity to provide a more comprehensive educational experience for students in the classroom, as well as to create relevant, meaningful programs for the entire Baylor community. “It is clear, at all levels, that health and wellness are important at Baylor,” says Green. “The administration, Parent Alliance, and colleagues across divisions in the Upper School and Middle School have generously provided additional resources, support, and guidance so we can offer quality programming, events, and special speakers for the Baylor community.”


BAYLOR HEALTH & WELLNESS AT A GLANCE

CURRICULUM

Students in grades 6-12 participate in a comprehensive and sequential exploration of important health and wellness topics.


COLLABORATION

Professionals in Baylor’s counseling center, health center, college counseling, student activities, residential life, and Middle School and Upper School divisions work together to support the school’s wellness mission: “To positively influence the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of the Baylor community, and to strive to create a culture that empowers all members of the community to make life-long healthy decisions.”


COMMUNITY

• Each year more than 30 organizations visit campus to share their expertise with students and faculty at the Annual Health & Wellness Fair, offering tips on a huge variety of health and wellness topics.
• In addition to chapel speakers for students and faculty, the Parent Alliance helps support parent programming, including the 2019-20 “Surviving the Teen Years Series.” Professional speakers in this series have led workshops in the areas of adolescent lifestyle medicine rooted in the foundations of stress reduction, sleep, nutrition and movement; supporting and promoting empathy, grit, and a positive mindset; mental health challenges among teens and warning signs to look for; and the susceptibility of the adolescent brain to substances, the systemic dangers to the brain and body, and the “trifecta gateway” of nicotine, alcohol and marijuana.
• Baylor’s College Prep 2.0 event takes place in the spring and features college experts in the areas of dorm living, physical and mental self care, and safety. It is targeted to parents of seniors with the goal of helping them prepare to support and promote the well being of their soon-to-be college students.

 

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