Wellness Ambassadors Encourage Change


From left: Francesca Gibson, Alice Ferrall, Claire Aminuddin, and Olivia Gallmeyer hanging out at the YADAPP conference this past summer.

Jessica Klees, News Editor

There is a club at WAHS that has recently been making some huge changes surrounding student well-being, specifically involving drugs and alcohol this year. Wellness Club’s mission is to bring representation to these problems and overall achieve a happier and stronger community. It was originally started by former Student Assistance Program counselor Katherine Modica, who also enlisted the help of Gifted Resource Teacher Zoё Padrón.

“I’m very interested in students improving their mental health and being happy at school. I also am really interested in students knowing the realities of what’s actually happening in and around their communities rather than what what their perceptions are,” Ms. Padrón explained. “One of my main concerns with the number of students I work with is trying to help students balance school and life in a healthy and happy manner.”

Ms. Modica asked Ms. Padrón to come with her and bring a team of students from Western and Monticello to a week-long conference called the Youth Alcohol and Drug Prevention Project. The program was sponsored by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission. According to Ms. Padrón, the “idea behind it is prevention: providing alternative programming to students that is fun, that is enjoyable, and that is an alternative to using substances that are bad for students.”

Ms. Padrón stressed that this issue is very important for our school because we have so many students that drive. She says she doesn’t want to lose any more students or teachers to driving under the influence. She also wants students to have a good time without driving under the influence.

The conference, also known as YADAPP, was a very exciting event full of speakers, education, activities and games. Our team of four people included Alice Ferrall, Francesca Gibson, Claire Aminuddin, and Olivia Gallmeyer.

Ferrall, a senior, said that she decided to join Wellness Club because “I care about the people at this school enough that I want to see that everyone’s happy and that everyone’s ok. It was almost like a duty.” “We’re just trying to make sure that everyone is taking care of themselves,” she added.

Wellness Club meets every Tuesday at 8:15, and they have monthly meetings at lunch. During meetings, students plan for upcoming programs and talk about what’s going on at school that they could use for ideas. The club members also help Ms. Modica with ideas and information to put into the monthly Stall Talk posters.

Continuing with their theme for this year of alcohol and substance abuse, the group is currently working on a campaign about vaping and smoking. Sophomore Claire Aminuddin, president of the club, explained that they are planning on creating a giant poster of a juul to show the harmful chemicals in them that people don’t know about. They are also doing a project to combat student stress during exams.

Along with the vaping campaign, one of Wellness Club’s biggest accomplishments so far was Why I Run. During YADAPP, students all had to create plans for a project to help the school. Aminuddin was one of the creators of the idea for the event, and ran most of it as well. The leaders at the conference even gave a grant of $250 to the Western team to help them put their plan into action. It was almost entirely led by students, which was another challenge in and of itself.

The idea was inspired by other runs and activities that had been put on by Leadership. “Western’s a very athletic school, so we thought doing a walk/run would be something that would engage students,” Ferrall said.

The club leaders agreed that Why I Run went very well for its first year. Students intend to continue it every fall. It was well-attended, and the students who came especially seemed to enjoy the music. The event also got some press coverage. Ferrall thought “it was nice to see the school come out in support.”

Aminuddin wanted to join Wellness Club after she worked on a project for Leadership related to student mental health, explaining that “we tried to provide stress relief activities for students, and then it sort of transformed into this mental health committee where we write policy to help kids around the county.” She enjoys helping others and teaching them to live healthy lives.

Sophomore Francesca Gibson became involved in the group when Ms. Padrón approached her and asked if she wanted to join YADAPP. “I thought it would be a good way to help my community,” she said. Gibson also added that she’s excited about another upcoming event for the club where they will be holding a panel with teachers about student stress and mental health concerns.

Later in the year, Wellness Club will also sponsor some activities around prom. “We do the prom pledge every year, and that’s always fun,” Ferrall said. This is when students sign a pledge to stay sober throughout all of prom. They are also working on getting wristbands for people who take the pledge to motivate them with discounts to restaurants and other places for prom night.

Wellness Club is still a pretty new group, but the members have many more ideas planned and hope to expand their resources to do more in the future.