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Health and wellness at RE: A community effort

With the return of students in late August, our campuses have come to life with an uninhibited playfulness that we desperately missed during the peak of the pandemic. It is wonderful to have moved beyond required masks, remote learning and plexiglass, yet we know we haven’t left covid-19 completely behind. Even the most optimistic educator will tell you that reclaiming the pre-pandemic routine isn't as simple as taking off a mask or relaxing visitor restrictions. The extended social isolation affected all of us, especially our children. That’s why a primary focus at Ransom Everglades as we enter 2022-23 is our students’ – and community’s – health and wellness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited research last spring showing that 44 percent of adolescents experienced persistent sadness or hopelessness in 2021. Although that is not an encouraging data point, the agency also found something called “school connectedness” helped counter those negative effects. Simply put, students with connections to activities, peers and mentors withstood difficulties better than more isolated peers. The CDC cited research showing that healthier students are better learners, and that instilling healthy habits is a community endeavor. “Students need our support now more than ever,” said Kathleen A. Ethier, Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, “whether by making sure that their schools are inclusive and safe or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults.”

As we focus on providing our students with a supportive and healthy environment, we are also working to strengthen our school community and enhance our wellness efforts across that community. Parent wellness, employee wellness and community-wide nutrition all contribute to student wellness.

We know our families and employees care about these issues as much as we do, given their responses to last year’s wellness surveys. More than 80 percent of parent respondents told us their children would benefit from nutrition and wellness information, and the vast majority told us that healthy meals were the most important aspect of student dining (over variety, sustainability and cultural diversity). The input we received helped guide our preparations for this year, and will also drive future decisions and programming. 

Here’s an inside look wellness at RE:

Nutrition is an imperative component of our wellness initiatives for 2022-23. Chef Andrew Benson, who has worked with Wellness in the Schools in New York City, is serving as a nutrition consultant to Sage Dining Services, our current dining provider. Andrew will be on campus frequently, and we expect our students to see delicious and healthful differences in our lunch offerings.

Our upper school students have access to our wellness coordinator and Director of Counseling Isis Perez-Gonzalez and Student Health Services Director Marie Gregorio; both have offices in the serene Lampen Family Wellness Center, the tree-shrouded bungalow-style house that sits just behind the Ransom Cottage. Upper schoolers also benefit from the Class of 2019 Wellness Garden, a secluded area that was a gift from the Class of 2019 and made its campus debut last year. The garden offers a delightful retreat; there are tables and seating designed for students to gather and relax during the school day.

At the middle school, students are served by counselor Susana Diaz and nurse Norma Torres They also participate in physical education courses that include sections on health and issues and ethics. Middle schoolers and their parents jointly take part in digital citizenship seminars that examine the opportunities and pitfalls of social media and the internet.

Students in grades 8-12  meet each semester with trained counselors from Freedom from Chemical Dependency who hold frank discussions about drugs and alcohol and other addictive substances. Our ninth graders benefit from the Health Information Project (HIP), health and wellness programming administered by trained peer health educators – RE juniors and seniors  – and coordinated by faculty member Karen Key. Founded by Risa Berrin ’98, HIP fosters peer relationships to address topics ranging from vaping to depression to anxiety. Freshmen take part in our traditional ninth-grade trek to the Everglades, canoeing trips in the Ten Thousand Islands that facilitate class bonding, communing with nature and the development of leadership skills. Each spring, RE seniors participate in seminars on sexual consent and the dangers of hazing. Many students take part in the student wellness board, Wellness Wednesdays and the HealthcaRE club at the upper school.

For parents, Ransom Everglades offers grade-level virtual meetings with clinical psychologist Deborah Offner, who has taught Adolescent Psychology at Boston College and worked with schools and families for years. We have  encouraged our parents to consider wellness topics during this year’s parent network events; we believe healthy parents can help their children maintain the focus on wellness.

Our faculty participated in an interactive seminar called Faculty Wellbeing with psychologist Tony Ciminero during our opening meetings, and all RE employees will have access to wellness classes, a wellness newsletter and various wellness events throughout the school year. There has even been a wellness component for alumni through Alice Lash ’78, who offered free virtual mindfulness seminars to fellow alums last spring.

We are looking forward to a great year with many student successes, explorations and discoveries, and – perhaps most importantly – the nurturing of our community’s collective welfare. We thank you for joining us on this journey.

signature of Interim Head of School Rachel Rodriguez
Rachel Rodriguez
Interim Head of School
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.