The Wellness Program is funded by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The aim of the program is to recruit diverse youth, expose them to a variety of career options and professionals in the field of Mental and Behavioral Health, train them in Peer Mentorship and have them serve as Wellness Ambassadors at their schools under the leadership of their counselors.
The long term goal of the program is for Wellness Ambassadors to complete high school with a more in depth knowledge of what opportunities exist for them in Mental and Behavioral Health, a stronger interest in going into the field and better preparation for higher education and the work world creating a more diverse skilled workforce.
Who are wellness ambassadors?
Wellness Ambassadors are youth leaders who work to improve the school climate by promoting wellness, modeling positive communication with adults and peers and developing professional skills. Wellness Ambassadors attend weekly meetings in which they hear from professional guest speakers, have group discussions and plan school wide events and activities to help reduce stigma around mental illness. They also volunteer at local organizations that serve mental health consumers as well as attend job shadows with professionals.
The Wellness Ambassador cohort which will be capped at 30 students ranges from 10th -12th grade and comes from Vicente Martinez High School in Martinez, Sylvester Greenwood Academy in Richmond, Alternatives in Action High School in Oakland and Island High School in Alameda. In order to be eligible students simply had to apply and write a short statement on why they thought they would make good wellness ambassadors.
Summer Wellness Institute
Berkeley City College
The Wellness institute was a 2 week long training for new Wellness Ambassadors at Berkeley City College from July 10th-21st. Each day began with an hour long Peer Mentorship Training led by ACOE’s Youth Development Specialist Shamia Sandles. The rest of the day was led by Career Technical Education Specialist Malila Becton-Consuegra with support provided by Education Specialist Yadira Torres and professional experts. Next students learned about a type of therapy and participated in a hands on activity relating to the therapeutic method of the day. After lunch each day professional experts came in to lead interactive presentations on their careers. Each day we wrapped up with a group circle where students were able to process their feelings surrounding the often heavy topics and put their communication skills to practice. The intensive nature of the institute led to of in depth group discussions, strong relationship building within the cohort and some personal breakthroughs. Some of the highlights of the Wellness Institute include: the trip to an Equine Therapy Center in Danville where youth experienced hands on therapeutic activities with trained therapy horses, guest speaker and Ted Talk Alumnus Naima Shalhoub who sang and played the guitar and discussed how she leads music workshops in SF County Women’s prison, and guest speaker Eric Handy, a college counselor who shared his story of overcoming major life obstacles and inspiring us to set ambitious goals for our lives. Another highlight was donating leftover breakfast and lunch to the homeless encampment in the park on the corner near Berkeley City College and discussing the stigma around homelessness and relationship between homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse. 100% of the Wellness Ambassadors said that the Wellness Institute has been a good use of their time in an online feedback survey. We are looking forward to deepening this work in the coming school year with more job shadows, a Winter Wellness Institute and youth led events at the school sites.