Chagrin Falls Middle and High School Students Share Student Wellness Initiatives at March Board Meeting

Chagrin Falls Schools are putting an emphasis on student and staff wellness. Chagrin Falls Middle School Principal Laila Discenza kicked off the March Board meeting by explaining how they are striving to create a welcoming, inclusive, and affirming environment for all.  She stated the District provides students with health and wellness competence that is supported through curriculum, school-wide programs, and related policies and meet the needs of young adolescents through comprehensive counseling and support services. 

All of these goals are the focus of Chagrin Falls Middle School Counselor Kyle Patterson who joined the meeting with several of his students to share the success of the school’s wellness programs. Eighth graders Abby Kay and Sadie Conrad stepped up to the plate to introduce the middle school’s Guidance Advisory Council (GAC), a leadership council that students can apply to join where they help build connections and improve the school.  

GAC also plans a multitude of fun and educational events and activities for their school to participate in, including the following: 

  • New Student Orientation, which allows incoming students to get a tour of the school and make friends. 

  • Start With Hello Week, which was started by the organization Sandy Hook Promise and aims to have students say hello to someone they may not talk to very often to make sure all students are connected and nobody goes unnoticed. 

  • Social Advocates for Youth Forum, which brings eighth graders together for an event at John Carroll University to help build student leaders. 

  • Unplugged Day, which challenges students to go 24 hours without using screens.

  • Anti-bullying lessons, which allows Middle School students to go to the Intermediate School to teach how to prevent bullying. 

  • and partnership with Intermediate School fourth graders, which allows the two schools to come together to bridge the gap by building connections. 

Next up, the high schoolers presented the Chagrin Falls Wellness Council, a new club that was formed to eliminate the negative stigma around mental health and guide students through mental health challenges. 

Ava Latore, a senior and the president of the council, shared with Board members that “33.3% of high school students reported feeling that their mental health was not the best. I cannot say that this surprises me,” she continued. “Including me, most of the people I am surrounded by speak of how they struggle with mental health. By creating this club, we hope to provide early education about mental health to middle schoolers to break the stigma surrounding mental health.”

With more than 60 members, many of whom have joined due to their personal understanding of mental health struggles, the club ran their first event last May. At the event, members set up different mental health awareness stations that seventh and eighth graders could rotate through, including a Jeopardy station with facts about mental health stigmas and a station where students could make stress balls. The club is excited to continue to promote the importance of mental wellness as they plan future events focusing on issues such as perfectionism, self-worth, social media’s effect on mental health, and how to manage anxiety and stress.  “For most of us, middle school wasn’t that long ago, and because of that, we’re able to connect with middle schoolers on a level much greater than a teacher or adult would,” said senior Kate Stephenson.  “We all went through a lot of the same struggles, and remember them well enough to talk about them.”

“A lot of times when we follow our children in this District we end up someplace great,” shared Board President Sharon Broz after the students finished presenting their social, emotional, and mental wellness initiatives. “I’m really proud of all of you for taking this on and having such an effective outcome so far.”

Also speaking were seniors Bianca Fant and Sam Kleid, as well as junior Claire Jarvis.