Outstanding graduate: Christopher Gonzalez, Marshall High School

Posted by ELLEN MATSUMOTO MORGAN on 5/30/2019 3:00:00 PM

Improving Student Wellness and Mental Health in High School

Christopher

When he graduates, Christopher Gonzalez will leave John Marshall High School with a better social climate than the one he experienced his first year on campus. Back then, most students hung with their own cliques or kept to themselves. Today, more of them mingle and no one sits alone at lunchtime.

The fancy name for all of this is student wellness, social emotional learning, school climate and culture.  The result at his school: More students are happier and feel like they belong. More students gather together regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, favorite subject or passion. And, more students speak to each other in the hallways.

Chris has been instrumental in that change. During a recent student wellness appreciation luncheon, a power-point presentation quantified the results: 75 percent of students reported they are happy at school, up from 64 percent from last year; 92 percent of students feel that LGBTQ+ students are accepted on campus, up from 75 percent; 92 percent of students feel comfortable in school, up from 71 percent, and 63 percent of students feel as if they are a part of school, up from 54 percent. Because of the mindfulness initiatives on campus, the overwhelming majority of the students also reported being less stressed and more focused.

“I began my work with the administration and mental health two years ago,” Chris explained. “This was a direct result of seeing many mental health issues on campus and seeing the prevalence of health inequalities within my community.”

He joined a social-emotional wellness committee. As he reflected on his time on that committee, he said, “The prevalence of mental illness is everywhere, especially affecting high school students where resources are limited and stigma prevents important dialogue. My goal with student wellness is to bridge the gap between students and professionals to develop a safe, equitable learning environment.”

Chris plans to continue this work at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles.

“At the moment I’m hoping to work in the medical field and do advocacy work in trying to erase the boundaries that limit access to health care and develop mental health literacy,” he said. “I want to work to create equitable learning environments that are conducive to learning and absent from stress and other barriers that limit learning.”

Just like he did at John Marshall Senior High School.

 

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