High School Haven for Stressed-Out Students to Open Soon

Photo courtesy Laura Ives The Titan Student Center at San Marino High School will soon open up to students in need of stress relief or mental health and wellness services.
Photo courtesy Laura Ives
The Titan Student Center at San Marino High School will soon open up to students in need of stress relief or mental health and wellness services.

The Titan Student Center is here.
The new arm of San Marino High School, slated to be the home base for the anticipated districtwide student wellness initiative, was opened this week for a VIP showing to officials and community members. The center will formally open for students once procedures and protocols are established.
The center represents a large, tangible step toward the overall plan, which was conceived in a presentation by the student representative on the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education in 2017 and developed by a group of officials and community stakeholders led by SMHS Principal Issaic Gates and consultant Liz Hollingsworth, a former SMUSD principal.
“He [Gates] actually is really clear that this is going to be a districtwide initiative,” said Laura Ives, the student support and intervention counselor at SMHS. “It is not just a wellness center. It is one piece of a districtwide shift he is envisioning.”
The center is in a former storage room above the SMHS library. New walls have gone up to create an office for Ives and another conference-style room, while the main area contains numerous tables, a refreshment counter for tea, a television, a rack of mental health and wellness pamphlets and other simple comforts such as plants and inspirational messaging on the walls.
“This space can be very flexible,” Ives explained. “We could wheel the tables out and do a yoga class in here, or put all the tables together to do group activities.”
Although the school is still working out how and when students can visit the center, the purpose is clear enough. Students stressed by their workloads will find ways of de-stressing themselves or learning more effective work and study habits, just as those entering a mental health crisis will find relief. Creative outlets, sensory therapies and coping strategies come standard with the center.
The color scheme and feng shui are deliberate choices. Local resident Diane Lam, an interior designer whose clientele includes USC and UCLA, donated her time and energy laying out the room to best benefit the students.
“She had a really good vibe on layout, the furniture, colors schemes and all of that,” Ives said. “She donated all of her time, which is wonderful. This has been made possible by a lot of very generous donors.”
Other donors include the San Marino School Foundation and Partnership for Awareness, which largely covered the startup costs for the initiative and center.
The district is making use of a 30-member student committee, whose advice has played a large part in what the center will offer once it is open to students, such as a themed Fun Friday for those who use its services. The center also will feature student counseling interns from Azusa Pacific University.
Ives, who will be in the center full time, said students will be able to stop by during their lunches or break periods, but she was still figuring out how to go about bringing students there — whether by recommendation of teachers, or allowing them to leave class to go there if they’re facing a crisis.
Some students — plucked from the Peer Mentor or LINK Crew programs — will be trained to help respond to peers who need the help the center offers.
“They’re going through training on listening skills and confidentiality,” Ives said. “They have a little script to follow and a handbook we’ve gone through. If a student has an issue and just wants to meet with a trusted peer instead of an adult, we’ll have that option.”
Junior Carlos Velasco, one of the student advisers and also a peer mentor, said it was satisfying to see his and others’ ideas for making school a better experience coming to fruition.
“I just felt like I was not contributing before,” he said. “I see everybody joining clubs and I felt like I should contribute more like that. It’s nice to be here and help out the school more. It’s something we need. This is something great. This is an improvement.”
Ives said she hoped to begin more open dialogue about mental health issues with parents and students and instill the mindset of regarding them the way they do physical illnesses or ailments. She said there may be space to expand this center, and the greater initiative will ultimately include all of SMUSD’s schools.
“I have had a lot of students really interested in this,” she said. “I feel like we’re going to have a lot of students using this space.”

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