The Examiner

Byram Hills Takes Next Step to Improve Students’ Emotional Well-Being

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By Aaron Notis

The Byram Hills Board of Education accepted a $58,722 grant from the district’s education foundation last week to fund the second year of a program designed to help evaluate and improve student wellness.

The Wellness for Life Initiative will be used to continue the Challenge Success Program, which in partnership with Stanford University gathers information and devises strategies to help create more balanced lives for students. Last year the program was launched with a $201,077 grant used within the district to create new spaces and opportunities to improve mental health and agility.

The Challenge Success Program is designed to help students understand that becoming independent thinkers and more adaptable, motivated and engaged members of society is just as important as high grades and test scores. Working with teams of teachers, parents and students, the program assesses students’ needs, identifies problems and develops action plans to support their emotional, academic and physical well-being.

Last year, a team of professionals from Stanford visited the district to compile data on issues such as how much time students are spending on homework, the amount of sleep they’re getting, their extracurricular obligations and who best supports them in the schools, said Superintendent of Schools Jen Lamia.

This year, a group of high school students, parents, teachers and administrators will travel to Stanford to continue working with the professionals. The Stamford team will then visit the district to look at the survey results and provide recommendations regarding potential changes in programs or scheduling.

Lamia said as recently as a decade ago educators weren’t able to quantify the implication of the intense rigor that children in districts such as Byram Hills faced.

“We now have data to support any kind of changes that we are making and we can’t make the changes by ourselves in a vacuum,” she said. “We do really rely on professionals who can ascertain what our results are telling us to help us with our next set of goals.”

The district also plans to build a Wellness Lounge where students can come to decompress, reflect and re-center themselves throughout the school day.

Byram Hills Education Foundation Chairman Jason Berland said he was excited about the grant.

“I’ve been the chairman of the education foundation for four years and this is the program I’m most excited about,” Berland said. “It’s going to make a big difference for our students and our district.”

The grant was divided between Byram Hills High School and H.C. Crittenden Middle School. The high school received $32,922 while $25,800 went to the middle school.

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