On the first day back from break, the Well Being Center was officially opened at William Howard Taft High School. In a search for available space, Taft and the center jointly chose to place it in the R building with the return of classrooms this school year. The school and Well Being program determined that the remote location allows for anonymity and is nestled in this quiet, secluded corner of the campus which is well worth the brisk walk for services.
The new Well Being Center is part of a larger initiative to provide sexual, behavioral and reproductive health to students in LAUSD, the Department of Health, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Planned Parenthood LA and the LA County Department of Mental Health. In late 2019, they announced the opening of 50 student Well-being Centers, one of which is now located at Taft Charter High School.
Although it was established on campus during the fall semester, the Center at Taft wasn’t up and running at that time, as staffing and preparations were still taking place. Currently, two rotating health educators split their time between Taft and other schools with centers on campus.
The Well Being Center’s purpose is to provide a non-judgemental place for students to have access to and advocate for their mental, sexual and reproductive health at any time they’d like. With two large rooms, the space feels open and welcoming, with chairs and tables lining the walls as well as a snack corner for students.
In regards to sexual health, the center will be providing STI, STD and pregnancy testing upon request, in addition to condoms that are openly provided. For all issues, the health educators will work one-on-one in guiding students towards healthy coping mechanisms for stressors in their life, and aim to help with any mental illnesses or concerns students choose to discuss.
This is a crucial part of the Well Being Center because many students are not taught healthy coping mechanisms, and with the current stressors of today, many students find themselves with anxieties or concerns and without a place to turn to for support.
When students come in with more serious or complex mental health issues, they can request counseling or support, but according to Sandra Trinidad, one of the acting health educators on campus, they will outsource students to a licensed therapist or other mental health professional as they see fit.
There were two determining factors for where the centers would open. First, is perceived need. This means that the people involved in the Wellness Program looked across the LAUSD campuses and decided if the students there would benefit from having extra health services on their campus.
“Looking at the numbers, we’ve found a high need in terms of what students are going through and some of the issues we were seeing,” said Armen Ter-Barsegyan, a senior health educator. “We are seeing higher rates of pregnancy in Los Angeles compared to students nationally and substance abuse with a rise in students who are vaping…and behavioral health which is always something that needs support.”
The second is a request from the school for a center to be opened. Taft has seen an increase in need amongst students and have expressed interest in a center being opened on campus.
There is “an increase in students asking for help…and expressing interest in a project like this” Ter-Barsegyan said, referring to the rapidly increasing desire among students to have this extra support, especially in regards to mental health.
The Well Being Center at Taft is open on campus and available from 7:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as Fridays from 7:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. with no appointment necessary. Students are also always welcome to come in during nutrition or lunch, have a seat and give themselves some time to simply decompress should they need it. The center endeavors to be a reminder to students that there is always someone who will support them without judgment, no matter what they are going through.