SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Relaxing music and the soothing sounds of waterfalls are elements employed in wellness centers within the William S. Hart Union High School District.
For students like Angel Reynolds, the centers are a place to relax. Inside, she plays games, reads or colors.
"It gives me something to occupy my mind because very frequently, my brain is not occupied and then runs like a hundred miles an hour," she said.
The stress has gotten worse since Reynolds has been back at Canyon High School. She's a senior who dedicates a lot of time to the school's theater program. While she's happy to be performing again, there's also the worry of another shutdown looming.
"And the stress of potentially losing that is not very fun, especially when an entire class is based on producing things for an audience," Reynolds said.
She's not alone in how she feels. Sarah Gilberts is a licensed therapist.
"We're seeing a lot of students with anxiety and the stress of coming back to school, not just stress related to COVID, stress related to school demands again," Gilberts said.
Gilberts is the wellness coordinator for the wellness centers within the William S. Hart Union High School District. She said wellness centers throughout the schools in the district are predominantly funded by the WiSH Education Foundation and school parent advisory committees and school district funding pots.
WiSH has distributed $76,000 to transform regular classrooms into relaxing environments. The centers also have resources to teach students ways to cope with stress, including counseling services.
"It's also a place where we kind of push into classrooms and push out to the whole school education and awareness related to mental health, the importance of focusing on our mental health, implementing coping tools to help us regulate and de-stress," Gilberts said.
Each week, roughly 375 to 400 students access the center at Canyon High School. There has been a lot for students to deal with, including the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School, fires and the pandemic.
"It's a lot of stuff, like I don't think any other district has a more eventful two or three years," Reynolds said.
The hope is that the wellness centers will better equip students to deal with future challenges.
To learn more about helping raise money for these centers, visit wisheducationfoundation.org.