The grand opening of the Ocean City Intermediate School’s Wellness Center is just days away. It is believed to be one of just a few for middle school students in the state, geared to provide a place where students can de-stress, spend time among peers and if need be, get help from professionals.
The unveiling runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. School officials, parents, students and community members are invited to hear details about the center.
In 2017 the school district opened a wellness center in Ocean City High School. It has been so beneficial that educators looked to do it in the Intermediate School.
“The board is excited to be able to have the opportunity to open this center,” Board of Education President Joseph Clark said in an interview Sunday. “I have heard from parents that when the kids get to middle school, they really have to hit the ground running. We could see we have issues going on there. The teachers do what they can do, but the wellness center was really something needed.”
Clark pointed out that the district is fortunate to have a “great partnership” with the Ocean City New Jersey Education Foundation (OCNJEF).
The foundation will present a check made possible through fundraising efforts of the OCNJEF to Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor during Tuesday’s open house.
Clark noted that there is a definite need. “We recognize the need and unfortunately, there have been some unfortunate situations. We realized we need middle school and even a wellness center in primary school. There need to be resources in place.”
While there are cases where students need medical professionals, sometimes they just need a place to go for someone to listen to them.
Jill Berenato, a high school nurse, is also the high school wellness center student assistance coordinator.
Clark said there have been times when school officials have contacted Berenato to assist students in the Intermediate School.
Sometimes it is simply a matter of a student needing someone to talk to about an issue. Other times it is more serious than that. But the need to open it up to the lower grades made it a priority of the district, Clark explained.
“We are lucky to be in a district where we have the finances to be able to do that,” Clark said of opening the wellness centers. “You don’t want to ever miss anything. There will be some bumps in the road. We have all had them. The wellness centers give us the tools to help parents and the kids who are going through some rough spots.”
During the program, parents, students and community members will be given a tour of the center and may ask questions.
There will be a host of district and wellness center staff and administrators at the event, including Stepfanie Grisinger, the Intermediate School Wellness Center student assistance coordinator, and Matthew Carey, the student services director.
Dr. Buzz Mingin, a brain, and behavioral health expert will give a presentation on self-soothing techniques for anxiety-driven behaviors.
Students may go to the wellness center for many reasons. Here are some, according to the district website:
- Depression & Suicide
- Sexual Orientation/Gender Questions
- Family Issues
- Peer Relationships
- Violence & Abuse
- Drug & Alcohol Abuse
Heather James, an OCNJEF member, said in a previous interview that the efforts of the organization help give the school district the upper hand in mental health.
OCNJEF Vice President Jennifer Shirk said the foundation is pleased with the district’s commitment toward mental health initiatives.
For more information about the Ocean City School District visit www.oceancityschools.org