By Linda Bausch
SAVE THE DATE
The 4th Annual Napa Valley Wellness
March 16th & 17th, 2023
While researching topics for this feature article for January’s Health + Wellness edition of Marketplace Magazine, multiple issues seemed worthy of attention. However, when I opened Napa Valley Education Foundation’s (NVEF) web page, the following statement made the decision for me.
“Our kids are not all healthy & happy. We’re changing that.”
And then I read on. The following was there—in all caps.
“IF YOU THINK SCHOOL BUDGETS ARE STRESSED, YOU SHOULD SEE OUR KIDS.”
To make this change, NVEF and many devoted sponsors have joined forces to make a difference in the lives of students during their watch. The 4th Annual Napa Valley Wellness Conference is scheduled for the 16th and 17th of March. Approximately 250 participants will gather at the CIA at COPIA for the two-day conference. About one half of the attendees will be local school leaders and mental health workers, many others will travel from outlying areas.
The conference opens with a tour of the Wellness Centers that have been created as a safe space for students to seek support. These centers are the result of the NVUSD Wellness Program—an initiative focused on the health, well-being and academic success of Napa’s students and families. These staffed centers are located at quite a few school campuses—American Canyon Middle School, Harvest Middle School, Redwood Middle School, Silverado Middle School, and American Canyon High School—and thanks to funding from Kaiser Permanente and Napa Valley Vintners, this year the program was extended to include Napa and Vintage High Schools. Each school site has a Wellness Team comprised of school counselors, school social worker, school psychologist, school nurse & health aid, and parent liaison—who help students and their families navigate the complex issues in middle school such as stress, trauma, suicide, bullying, depression, self-esteem, and relationships. As funds become available and the physical building requirements are met to accommodate the strict regulations, more schools will see these centers come to life in support all of our students.
Following the tours, a film will be presented. Directed by Scilla Andreen, RACE to Be Human, addresses the apprehension and confusion so many of us feels when it comes to talking about race and racism. The film program examines micro-aggressions, allyship, the role of social media, and more. It also shares how we can promote curiosity, self-reflection, and empathy through conversations at home, school and work. A panel discussion with the filmmaker follows.
The second day commences with this year’s Keynote Speaker, Dr. Shawn A. Ginwright, PhD, author of The Four Pivots. He is one of the nation’s leading innovators, provocateurs, and thought leaders on African American youth, youth activism, and youth development. He is Professor of Education in the Africana Studies Department and a Senior Research Associate at San Francisco State University. His research examines the ways in which youth in urban communities navigate through the constraints of poverty and struggle, to create equality and justice in their schools and communities.
The call for presenters is still under review; the list of presenters is not yet complete. A youth panel will be included.
Jennifer Stewart, Executive Director of NVEF, told me, “We will explore the intersection of race and mental health, and how to engage with youth as leaders around these topics. There will be more than a dozen breakout sessions regarding youth voice, mental health, and wellness.” She continued on the topic of rolling out the program to all NVUSD campuses, “We do have ongoing plans to continue expanding wellness services and school-based hubs because we believe every child should have school-based access to free mental health services.”
Valley Oak’s Principal, Maria Cisneros, shared with me that the staff and educators on campus take the mental health and wellness of their students to heart. Although they do not have a staffed Wellness Center, they fully participate in the program to the extent of which the school’s physical limitations allow. In addition, twice a year they host their own Wellness Conference on-site. Students participate and are engaged as more than twenty local non-profit agencies go “all in” to support the students in their needs. Maria continues her efforts to grow the program to benefit all Napa Valley students by working to bring desperately needed funding initiatives to the ballot box.
On the NVEF website is a page that clearly spells out some of “The Needs” addressed by the Wellness Centers and following are the stats regarding “The Outcome” —results that have culminated due to the success of the wellness programs.
25% of middle school students report depression
15% of middle school students have considered suicide
12% identify with having behavioral concerns
55% improvement in overall school competence
41% reduced reports of bullying
61% reduced suspensions of students
These results are impressive on paper—imagine the differences that have been made in the lives of the students reporting these solid results— and the lives of their families, and teachers. Thankfully NVEF and NVUSD are not in this alone. More than twenty-five local businesses also pitch in with funding dollars that help keep the programs moving forward. (Unfortunately, recent ballot initiatives to extend the physical center locations to all of the NVUSD schools have failed.) Their generosity impacts not only the students, but teachers as well.
. . . Let’s not forget the teachers—each and every one is a touchpoint for each and every student. The comment at the beginning of this article (“If you think our school budget is stressed you should see our kids . . .”) well, that also goes for our teachers. I cannot imagine the level of stress they are faced with each school day. NVEF has been making every effort to change that, with support for teachers as well. Happy Educators = Happy Students.
Presented in partnership with Napa County Office of Education, “We Heart Teachers” is focused on ensuring that all educators in Napa County have access to the support and resources they need to inspire the next generation. From networking to teacher grants, this program recognizes the hard work educators do every day to make learning fun, effective, and engaging in their classrooms.
Jennifer Stewart is solid in her support of this program. “Words cannot adequately express how much We Heart Teachers, so instead, we are throwing a party! Our campaign includes appreciation events for teachers throughout the year, and most definitely in May during Teacher Appreciation Month!”
Join NVEF for the free appreciation events. Enjoy a complimentary beverage, delicious small bites, and games, while mingling with educators from across Napa County—think of it as an adult recess if you will. This is also an opportunity to learn about NVEF’s teacher programs, events, and resources for the 2022-23 school year.”
Online registration for the Napa Valley Wellness Conference is open now.
NapaWellnessConference.org NVEF.org OR NVUSD.org