Alumni Association Board holds forum

Alden Detmer

The Alumni Association Board hosted an all-community meeting in Munger Library Jan. 25. The roundtable discussion focused primarily on student health and wellness, with speeches from Associate Head of School Laura Ross, Head of Peer Support and Psychology Teacher Tina McGraw ’01 and HW Alumni Association President Angel James Horacek ’95.

Ross said the school’s ultimate goal is to equip students with the necessary skills to succeed beyond high school.

“We know that on the deepest level, what parents hope for is that their kids will come out of their educational experiences full of new senses of new things that they know, academic interests and personal interests,” Ross said. “But [we] also [want to] help [teach students about] self-efficacy, emotional health and an understanding of how to manage challenges and reach their goals.”

Ross said the school has made a number of changes to its student support, including the addition of the Learning Center and school counselors.

“When I arrived at [the school] six years ago, I came in with our first Director of Learning Support,” Ross said. “That was a person who is supposed to serve all 1,600 students on two campuses. And at that time, there were one and a half counselors at the Upper School. If you fast forward to now, we have now two full-time learning specialists on both campuses with two Learning Center spaces. It’s actually been so popular that at [the Upper School], we’re moving it into the Tech Center.”

McGraw said the prevalance of social media will continue to be a key issue in student mental health.

“The social media piece has been huge in terms of understanding the rising rates of depression and anxiety,” McGraw said. “We really have seen a lot of research that correlates those two things, especially that students are recognizing it but also saying they can’t stop. In a sense, it’s much like a gambling or sex addiction: something that becomes part of behavior. Our education around tech use is definitely going to escalate over the next few years as we address this head-on.”

McGraw said parents should limit the time that students spend on their devices.

“The less time they spend on screens, the better for their mental health,” McGraw said. “Having a limit on how long your students are on screens is really helpful, especially if they’re in the younger grades. Eventually, they will learn to self-manage, but also feel free to grab their cell phones, their laptops and their iPads at 8 or 11 p.m. and lock them in a drawer. Otherwise, sleep deprivation really devastates their ability to focus and concentrate. [Sleep deprivation] also changes students’ mood and attitude profoundly.”

Horacek said the Alumni Association Board plays a crucial role by informing alumni of upcoming administrative decisions.

“In terms of constituencies that are relevant to the school, alumni are the only group that is continuing to grow,” Horacek said. “I don’t want anyone to overlook your voice and how important we are in making sure that our community stays active and involved in where the school is heading.”

Ross said the school takes both the students’ and parents’ perspectives into consideration when advising students.

“The worries that kids have that they will disappoint their parents and themselves puts every bit of pressure on a grade or any result that might look like failure,” Ross said. “It is absolutely something that we are in service of trying to give students, the ability and the skills they’re going to need. We are incredibly proud of the kinds of things our students do. What we’re trying to do is to both balance and honor the aspirations that people have for their children.”