On Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, the Berkeley High School Wellness Center hosted its grand opening. The event included presentations from many of the students, teachers, administrators, and parents who helped bring the Wellness Center to life.
The BHS Wellness Center, in H-104, is a space intended for students to take breaks throughout the school day. Despite being directly across from the Health Center, the Wellness Center serves a different purpose for the BHS community. This space is specifically designed to provide students with a safe and welcoming space and includes a variety of activities designed to help students unwind, including puzzles, coloring spaces, board games, and much more.
BHS Wellness Center Program Supervisor, Melissa Virrueta, voiced her hopes for the Wellness Center and what it will mean for the BHS community. She explained that in creating this resource, there was particular emphasis on developing a “space where students could get what they need and have the unconditional positive regard for/from the adults who support them.”
Throughout her speech, Virrueta also emphasized the importance of having wellness resources in schools as an essential part of students’ ability to thrive in their learning environments. “Access to mental health and wellness services is educational equity,” said Virrueta.
BHS Vice Principal Doreen Bracamontes began by explaining why this presentation and introduction of the Wellness Center was so essential.
“(In public school work), we’re doing things behind the scenes and then folks think that, magically, projects appear, and magically there’s this room, and that’s not true,” said Bracamontes. Bracamontes highlighted the importance of this opening event in showing that there are many people who have put in extensive efforts to turn the Health Center into a reality. “We’ve carved out an intentional space to help see the people behind the work,” Bracamontes said.
After the speeches, guests were invited to go out to the courtyard to the Health and Wellness fair. A variety of booths highlighting wellness resources within the community were available to the guests. Some of these resources included spaces like the Berkeley Public Library, the Child Therapy Institute, the Youth Equity Partnership, the Berkeley Public School Funds, and several other organizations, which, despite not all being directly connected with wellness, all play a part in keeping the Berkeley community conscious about the importance of mental health for teens. Several of BHS’s Green Dot peer educators were also available to answer questions about the program and about what supports BHS has available for its students’ mental health. Many of these booths included activities and information on these resources. There was also an opportunity for visitors to explore the Wellness Center on their own, and learn about the organization and activities within it.