O’Dowd students are more clearly recognizing the connection between social justice issues and health and wellness.
The student leadership team from the Solidarity in Action club, under the direction and guidance of Service Learning Director Beth Mueller, organized a comprehensive Health and Wellness Week (September 11-15), which illustrated the connection.
Each day of the week had a particular theme and related activities, including Mental Health Monday, Tune in Tuesday, Stay Woke Wednesday, Talk it Out Thursday and Physical Friday.
Director of Health and Wellness Mark Lederer said the partnership between Solidarity in Action and Health and Wellness made an important connection between the health and wellness of individuals and the health and wellness of communities.
“Through this connection student leaders were empowered to open possibilities for healing through education, conversation and mindful attention in response to a broader context of a cultural climate of painful social and political events. I am touched by the ways in which our charism calls to community in diversity, social justice, strength of character, academic excellence, joy and sustainability all cohere in supporting this collaborative and restorative work,” he said.
An all school assembly held on Stay Woke Wednesday featured mindfulness educator and youth leader Vinny Ferraro, who spoke with student about how to use mindfulness-based practices to deal with difficult experiences. Ferraro is the training director for the Mind Body Awareness Project and is a senior trainer for Mindful Schools in Oakland.
“We all have difficulties and stress that we have to deal with – it doesn’t matter the details of our story,” Ferraro said. “If we want to succeed in what we are passionate about we have to find a way to chill and reset.”
Ferraro encouraged students to train their attention to stay focused on the present moment so that they can connect to “a truth deeper than thought” and respond with wisdom and compassion to the difficulties they encounter. He then led the students in a short mindfulness exercise. “The world pulls us in a lot of different directions. We have to be able to focus and be able to answer what it is we are all about.”
On Talk it Out Thursday, students were invited to gather in the theater during MP for a Dragon Talk about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as President Trump’s recent cancellation of DACA, and the resulting effects on our society.
Student panelists said education is key to eliminating ignorance, and suggested ways students can advocate for positive change such as volunteering at non-profits that seek to end injustice or writing letters to their Congressperson or Senator.
A member of the Solidarity in Action leadership team, Jenay Hatchell ’18 helped plan and execute Health and Wellness Week activities. Hatchell also serves as the Senior Class President and is a member of the Black Student Union.
“I was inspired by last year’s Solidarity in Action leaders Dylan Brown and Audrey Carson and the impact they had on the community” she said. “It’s important to provide a space for students to share their feelings and concerns.”