OCEAN CITY, NJ (January 21, 2020) –  On Tuesday, January 21st, Ocean City Intermediate School held a grand opening ceremony for their Wellness Center. During the event, the Ocean City Education Foundation presented a check for the Intermediate School Wellness Center to Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kathleen Taylor for $10,000. Parents, students, and community members attended the grand opening to tour the Wellness Center, talk to staff and administrators, and learn about all of the incredible mental health initiatives that are being set in motion in the Wellness Center. Additionally, they were able to hear a presentation by Dr. Buzz Mingin titled, Self Soothing Techniques for Anxiety Driven Behaviors. 

The Ocean City Intermediate School’s Wellness Center came to fruition after incredible success with the Wellness Center at Ocean City High School. The Wellness Center was taken from an idea to a reality thanks to the dedication and support of the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kathleen Taylor, school administration, staff, parents, students, and the community, including the Ocean City Education Foundation. The creation of the Wellness Center comes as part of a larger initiative, spearheaded throughout the Ocean City School District, to place an emphasis on mental health and wellness. Ocean City Intermediate School students are not only being provided access to mental health resources, but are being educated on mental health, learning signs and symptoms, identifying triggers, and learning coping skills. 

“Addressing the social and emotional well-being of our pre-school through 12th grade students has been at the forefront of our work and efforts for almost a decade. We have evidence that our programs, staff, resources, involvement with the New Jersey School Boards Association and their Mental Health Task Force, along with the success of the High School Wellness Center, has had a positive impact on our students and school climate. We are continuing this proactive focus on the health and wellness of our students by opening a Wellness Center in the Intermediate School. The School Board and I, as well as the administrators and staff, are committed to ensuring that we build a foundation of hope for all of our students. We also want to thank the Ocean City Education Foundation for their generous donation to support and fund the set-up of this new Center." - Dr. Kathleen Taylor, Superintendent of Schools. 

The Wellness Center offers a variety of groups, initiatives, and services to students, such as hosting therapy dog sessions, Yoga Club every Monday facilitated by 5 dedicated teachers, and groups focused on improving social skills, regulating emotions, and grief. Additionally, students can have individual sessions or check-ins with the Social Worker/Student Assistant Coordinator when they need a space to calm down or regroup after experiencing heightened anxiety or an inability to stay focused. The Wellness Center also serves as a place where students can be honored for academic achievements, for athletes to relax before a game, to reward positive behaviors with a pizza party, a quiet place for students to hang out or play air hockey during lunch or recess, or a place for students to explore ideas and get support with implementing new clubs/groups. 

The goal for the Wellness Center is to provide all students with a calm, safe environment that makes them feel comfortable for whatever their needs are, whether it is to sit on a bean bag chair for ten minutes in silence before heading to class or to sit and talk to the Social Worker/SAC about their biggest stressors. The Wellness Center is their space and is meant to make them feel comfortable and heard. Adhering to their needs can uplift their overall mental and emotional wellbeing which will also help them be as successful as possible academically. When a student is in need, there is a mental health check-in board in the Wellness Center that they can utilize in the morning or during lunches, they can fill out a brief request form located in the guidance office, or they may simply request to be seen either to teachers or myself.  

“One thing I would like parents to know is that I am here for them. They can call, email, or schedule an appointment to come and see the space for themselves. They know their children best, so if there is a personal struggle that the child is experiencing or if they want me to have check ins with their child on a more regular basis, please reach out and let me know. I am here for the students, but I am also here for you too. Let's work together to build up the students and give them the well-rounded support that they need and deserve,” said Stepfanie Grisinger, School Social Worker and Student Assistance Coordinator for the Wellness Center. 

Overall, it is important for students to understand that they do not need to have a mental health diagnosis to access the center. Everyone experiences heightened anxiety or depression at some point in their lives and talking to a trusted adult should be as socially accepted as going to the doctor when you are sick.