To reward students for their hard work throughout the school year and as a way for them to cut loose and have fun without the structure that defines their days, Haddonfield Memorial High School treated its charges to a “Wellness Day” on May 23.
Held around the athletic complex at the rear of the high school, the modes of wellness intended to frame the all-day gathering included a Mr. Softee truck, turkey burgers, therapy animals, and plenty of room on the football field to engage in athletic games, hula-hoop contests, or just to have space and time to talk among friends.
“It’s all about promoting how to make yourself a better person. We try to focus on some all-natural, healthy things. It’s just about getting everyone to relax and making sure that their mental health is on the level,” said HMHS senior and two-year member of the Peer Leaders Ted Decencio.
Perhaps the greatest lesson the student body gained, thanks to the whims of Mother Nature was, “go with the flow.”
Enthusiasm for the day was not dampened despite the event being interrupted due to weather. The first time was a half-hour delay about an hour into the festivities thanks to some dark clouds and thunder directly overhead. The second time was a bit more serious: after an intense band of rain swept through the area with thunder and lightning just after lunchtime, everyone was left scrambling to get back indoors on teachers’ orders.
“I think it’s a nice thing to do, especially when it takes place, after all the AP exams and before regular exams. We’re very academically-oriented and we work really hard throughout the year, and it’s good they have this outlet for one day,” noted HMHS English teacher Bill Usher, who wrestled with a quickly-melting chocolate ice cream cone.
Although part of the peer group helping serve fellow students, Decencio said there was no fear of missing out because a main perk of volunteering was they had a chance to see things like the therapy rabbit and also spend time with K-9 Officer Blue and his handler, Patrolman Jake Sorg.
As this time of the year is marked by proms and graduations along with the intense release of pressure of celebrating these milestones, Sorg’s more important duty occurred on the periphery of the main attractions. Using a pair of goggles that impair vision and balance, several students donned them and then felt the effects of alcohol intoxication while trying to follow Sorg’s instructions while walking on the track.
“I think we’re all conscious of it. We have numerous conversations in faculty meetings. We can’t do this all the time,” Usher said of the possibility of holding more “wellness days” throughout the school year.
“I think being responsible adults, monitoring the kids, making sure they’re not overly stressed. We have to be mindful of pacing, creating our lessons and units. This is kind of a dramatic release for them, but as far as the day-to-day, it’s about being attentive to students, which is what any good teacher or any good administrator would do.”
Descencio echoed those sentiments, adding, “I think it’s more important to make every student’s day able to better incorporate things like this. I think it’s good to have just one day. But days like this come and go, and you should always be thinking about your mental health.”