Well Centered

New safe space provides mental health comfort


Aaryn Keltie ’25 spends time in the Wellness Center. They de-stress by drawing after a long day at school

In a far-off corner of the school, the sound of a piano being played can be heard from a dimly lit
room. This place has become somewhat of a safe haven for many students.


Greg McDonald, the counselor in charge of the mysterious room, sits on a cushion on the floor
as he talks to a student who is struggling with immense stress. They feel comforted by McDonald’s words.


“A student can find safety here, a break during their busy day to reset because nowadays we’re
always going,” McDonald said.


This transformed classroom, known as the Wellness Center, implies a space for personal
health, which isn’t completely wrong. It’s a place to escape from the harshness of high school
and just take a breather from everyday life.


“Students walk in with the soft lights, the music, the fish scenes going on in the background, the
comfortable couches, the tea, all of which help a person relax,” McDonald said.


Students like Milo Needle ‘24 have found comfort in the Wellness Center.


“I’ve had a couple times this school year where I’ve been struggling and I’ve gone to the room,”
he said. “ Mr. McDonald has been there to help. It’s been really great.”


The Wellness Center, although it has many admirers already, did not randomly appear out of the
blue over the summer. Over the past few years, the Wellness Center has been on the minds of
Linda Hubbard and our past principal, Neil Anderson.


“The administration went to Fort Collins to visit a high school that has a similar Wellness
Center,” Hubbard said. “And so it was kind of in the back of our minds that that is something that
we would eventually like to do here.”


The Wellness Center wasn’t actually created until the Marshal fire impacted so many of our
own. The school was approached by Impacted Education to give students, who were affected
by the fire, an outlet to go to as they learn to overcome the destruction. It couldn’t have come at
a better time.


For the past few years, mental health among high school students has dramatically decreased,
according to the CDC’s Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey. Social media and
COVID have taken a toll on the mental health of high school students, causing a rapid increase
in persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.


“A lot of us are dealing with a lot of heavy stuff in our lives, especially our high school students,”
McDonald said. “Even before COVID, there was a rise in anxiety and issues due to social media
and cell phones.”


With scattered emotions, students often choose to keep their feelings trapped inside. However,
it’s only a matter of time before all the feelings rush out like a waterfall.


“The Wellness Center has been a really helpful resource because it helps a lot of kids feel safe
and secure,” Needle said.


Since the start of the school year, the Wellness Center has already seen great reviews across
the school and great participation by the student body.


“I’ve had over 260 individual students come through from all different social groups, which has
been great,” McDonald said. “That’s probably a tenth of our student body.”


The rise in popularity of the Wellness Center is not surprising to Aaryn Keltie ‘25. Before the
Wellness Center, they say students would go to the counseling office if they were ever
struggling with any problems relating to school or home.


“It’s just so much better than the counselor’s office because you’re actually recognized and
heard,” Keltie said. “And if you can’t deal with something right then and there, you have a place
to just sit and calm down.”


Although the counselor’s office is still an option and open to anyone, Needle says the Wellness
Center offers different things than the counseling office.


“I feel like the counseling office, although it’s a helpful resource, is not exactly set up for people
in crisis,” he said. “The Wellness Center is there for people to take a break from their school


The Wellness Center is not only a place where students can just sit and relax, but it is also a
place where people know that they are not alone in how they feel. Others feel the same way
even if it’s hard to tell by looking at them.


“I think what separates our Wellness Center from other places in the building, is we are always
in here,” McDonald said. “We are always accessible for whenever anybody’s feeling a need to
connect with someone in a safe, non-judgmental way.”