WELLSBORO — It’s a half day of school, but instead of counting the minutes until dismissal, students here are learning life skills.
Wellsboro Area High School instituted a Healthy Living/Positive Choices program at the school. The program is held on Act 80 days, which are half-days for students. The school-wide program grew out of a training held last year for Connectors Plus, a group of students who mentor incoming freshmen and new students, said high school principal Emily Ostrom-Graham.
The student group requested a training last spring, so the school arranged for a handful of speakers on a variety of topics.
“They said, ‘This is great, but everyone needs to have this training,’” said Ostrom-Graham.
Starting this fall, the school decided to offer the Healthy Living/Positive Choices program on half days of instruction, which will total about six by year’s end.
The program has been held twice: Sept. 27 and Oct. 10. Reaction has been positive.
“I think it should have been sooner,” said junior Kaytlynn Rice. “It helps open up people’s minds to other situations and makes people not feel alone.”
Kaytlynn looks forward to future events and hopes the district incorporates mental health topics.
“I would like to see mental health taken more seriously among students,” she said. “Most think it is a joke.”
On Sept. 27, the school incorporated state mandated safety training, including the Safe 2 Say program and an introduction to professionals in the district who are available to help students with problems. Coach John DeLeonardis talked about how one person can make a difference. Students also launched a loose change collection to benefit the Wellsboro Food Pantry.
Also that first day, students completed a baseline survey so that teachers can see where they have needs.
Much of the Oct. 10 focus was on emotions, stress and fitting into a new environment. Students also had an introduction to Naviance, a college and career readiness system.
Ostrom-Graham led a session on empathy, and talked about the fine line between friendly teasing and bullying. Other teachers spoke to students about stress and coping.
Assistant principal Jeremy Byrd talked to students about lessons learned while transitioning into a new environment. Byrd is new to the area, having accepted the job of assistant principal at the start of this school year.
He told students there are two lessons to remember when going to a new job, a new college, town or into the service. First, sit back and figure out the culture of where you are. Once you figure that out, you need to let people know who you are.
“Inject yourself into the culture and change it if it needs to be changed and let it change you if you need to be changed,” he told students.
Ostrom-Graham said the school is investigating bringing in professionals from the community to share their expertise with students. If interested, contact the school at 570-724-3547 and ask to speak to Sherry Mohr.