Wellness Warriors Champion Berkeley High’s New Wellness Center

Berkeley High celebrated a mental health milestone this weekend. Their new and long-awaited Wellness Center launched on Saturday, December 2nd with a grand opening. Spearheaded by the Vice Principal of Climate & Wellness, Doreen Bracamontes, the Wellness Center is a partnership between Berkeley High and the City of Berkeley. They also received support for their launch from a LEADING for Equity grant from the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, in partnership with the Berkeley High Development Group. 

The new Wellness Center, distinct from the existing Berkeley High Health Center, was designed with input from high school students who voiced the urgent need for a safe and supportive space for wellness breaks. So they made this the new mission of the Center: students are invited to take 10 minute self-directed mental health breaks in the space, and can access additional levels of support when needed.

The grand opening ceremony boasted a diverse and star-studded portfolio of health and wellness advocates from Berkeley High and beyond, including a number of multi-year Schools Fund Equity Grantees.

Nashwa Emam, one of Berkeley High’s intervention counselors, served on the implementation team of the new Wellness Center, guiding decisions about space design, protocols, and use. 

BHS Interim Principal Tonia Coleman recognizing the Wellness Center Implementation Team, including staff, students, and community members.

Emam’s partner in counseling, Jasdeep Malhi, was also recognized for her role in co-facilitating Berkeley High’s Green Dot program, which trains bystanders to intervene in high-risk situations. Emam and Malhi’s intervention counseling program has been a three-time recipient of Schools Fund LEADING for Equity grants for their work incentivizing strong attendance so that students get to class and can focus on learning.

CAS Wellness Coordinator Stephanie Schaudel was also recognized for her pioneering leadership in running support and affinity groups across some of Berkeley High’s “small schools.” These groups have been buoyed by financial support from a LEARNING for Equity grant for the past 3 years.

Wellness warrior Stephanie Schaudel (left) being recognized by Interim BHS Principal Tonia Coleman (right).

Lastly, three-time LEARNING for Equity grantee and Longfellow Middle School Restorative Justice Counselor, Aaron Lechuga, was recognized for his stewardship of the well-being of Longfellow students long after they graduate and transition to Berkeley High.  “Even though he’s not on the staff of Berkeley High, he’s always on our campus,” noted Bracamontes, citing his enduring and remarkable commitment to supporting his students. “When Lechuga sees something children need, he raises his voice and he does it from his heart.”

Doreen Bracamontes (left) honoring Longfellow Restorative Justice counselor Aaron Lechuga (right)

The Berkeley Public Schools Fund would like to express our gratitude to these mental health warriors, leaders, and advocates who work tirelessly, each and every day, to transform BUSD campuses into safer and supportive spaces where students are recognized not only for their academic achievements but for their wholeness as human beings. 

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