My current title at St. Andrew’s is the “Dean of Wellness.” You could say that this sounds like a “cushy” job and, in part, you would be right. There is a preponderance of wellness here. Having worked at two other boarding schools for 16 years before coming to St. Andrew’s 18 years ago, there are ways that this community is uniquely “well” in comparison to other schools.
First, let me be clear about what I mean by the term wellness. Wellness refers to our efforts to enhance physical and mental health that go beyond the elimination of illness; it is proactive and holistic. We want our students to thrive and flourish, both here and in their lives beyond St. Andrew’s. There are at least two ways that St. Andrew’s students thrive while they are here. The first is the “culture of delay” we have created around alcohol and other substances. There is remarkably little use of alcohol and drugs on our campus. What current research tells us is that the longer one can delay a first experience with, or regular use of, alcohol and other drugs, the less likely a person is to develop a problematic or addictive relationship with substances in their lifetime. Considering what we know about brain development, this makes a lot of sense. What does this mean at St. Andrew’s? It means our kids get to be kids. They play four square and Frisbee on the Front Lawn. They go for hikes in the woods. They learn how to have fun, be social, and cope with stress without using alcohol or drugs. Our students head off to college knowing that drinking is not an inevitable part of college life—it is a choice.
Another unique aspect of our healthy SAS culture is the care that students have for one another. When I meet with counselors from other schools and I tell them that our primary referral system for counseling is the students, they are always shocked. I have come to take this for granted. If a student at St. Andrew’s is grappling with something, we almost always hear about it from a peer. Whether they call, email, or bring a friend to our office, students here do not let individuals struggle in isolation; they reach out to each other and to us for help. In addition, our Peer Counselors have become a wonderful new link between the student body and the Counseling Office to be sure that all students are getting the support they need and deserve. Caring at St. Andrew’s is an active verb—another great life skill they develop while they are here.
Don’t worry, I still have my work cut out for me. St. Andreans still tend to do too much and sleep too little. The new daily schedule is designed to give them fewer classes to attend and prepare for each day. We are trying to offer more yoga and meditation for students who find these practices relaxing. The Class of 2019 has formed a committee to discuss healthy relationships. We are always exploring opportunities to encourage our students to make healthy choices now and in the future. To the extended community of parents and alums, I am always looking for ideas and suggestions. Shoot me an email!
- Faculty Essays