On Tuesday morning the opening of Greenwich High School’s new Education & Wellness Center, or just “The Center,” was marked with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
GHS headmaster Ralph Mayo said the credit for the new center goes to Dr. Lorraine Termini, whose birthday fell on the day of the ribbon cutting.
“All the things we have that are really great in the school system have come from the staff,” he said. “Not from the BOE, not from Havemeyer building, not from the principal – but from the staff. This program came from the staff,” Mayo said. “Lorraine and her committee met last year, each week for hours and hours.”
Dr. Termini said she had the idea about 2-1/2 years ago. Initially she bounced the idea off school psychologist Jeff DeTeso. Then they took the idea to then Headmaster Chris Winters. “He said, ‘Go for it,'” she recalled.
The Greenwich Alliance provided a $25,000 grant to get the project off the ground.
GHS Special Education teacher Jen Benoit said the Center provides a physical space for multiple programs and services without duplication.
Through a “web approach,” three programs are connected. STARS is an intervention for students without IEP’s who can benefit from short-term skill building in areas such as executive functioning and self-awareness regarding their learning styles
ESS, short for Effective School Solutions, is a program Greenwich Schools contracts with to support students through services such as group therapy and family outreach and education.
The program formerly CSP, short for Comprehensive Support Program, is an academic program with embedded mental health support. Services such as smaller class size, credit recovery and scaffolding of lessons are all built in.
Social-Emotional Learning and transition planning are implemented by a transition coordinator, mental health staff and academic staff. Lessons are woven into curriculum to connect the SEL, so hopefully students find the coursework more relevant.
Student programs are more individually designed within the Center than previously, utilizing all these services.
Supports can be be blended without the impediment of physical distance or program barriers.
“For example, a student might have ESS in the morning, a number of classes in the Center, classes in general ed, a staff monitor to help them with their classes and act as a liaison, and mental health staff assigned to them, and access to exploring their learning styles through a push-in into their academic labs.
A focus of the Center is community building.
“Many students need a home base, as well as an opportunity to be leaders. the community room, in room 615, is used for downtime, student club meetings and for guest speakers,” Benoit said. “Currently the center has two clubs: a leadership club made up of students focused on organizing community service projects, field trips and the overall tone of the Center.”
There is also an art club, and student work has resulted in creative bulletin boards which showcases their peers’ work, as well as conveying practical, skill building and motivational messages.
“The work of these members is uniting and benefiting all of the 80 students currently connected to services here,” Benoit continued, adding that in the past there had been a lot of obstacles to accessing community services and agencies.”
Danielle Polizzi, a School Social Worker, who graduated GHS herself, said the Center has many amazing community resources students might have difficulty accessing on their own.
“Our dream is to develop a program that addresses all of the levels of needs. By bringing in community agencies, we can offer students wrap around services so that they can connect with those agencies outside of here more easily,” she said.
The organizations The Wellness Center collaborates with include Laurel House, CCI, Family Centers, Hill House, Boys & Girls Club, Kids in Crisis, JRB, Liberation Youth Options, YWCA, Rowan Center, Triangle Community Center, Town of Greenwich, Child Guidance, DCF and the school’s SROs.
“Nationally this is setting a model for what it should look like in high schools all across the country – where we have a these wonderful services in one place and students can love the environment and want to come to school, and be able to access some amazing educators and people to support you on your journey through education,” said Dr. Toni Jones, Greenwich Schools superintendent.
Derrick Zevola, a GHS junior, who graduated from the STARS program – which is now incorporated into The Education & Wellness Center, said the program helps students regardless of background to find effective study strategies to maximize their academic success.
“I think it is more than just an academic support program run by an experienced English teacher. STARS is a program that can make any student feel like an extended family within the confinement of the walls of GHS. Ms Kassman, an expert English teacher and a wonderful person whose heart is forged with pure gold radiates her kindness and knowledge as a beacon of light for all students.”
Derrick said that in spring 2019, he was struggling with his sophomore research paper.
“My grade on the first draft of the paper was very unfortunate,” he said. “However, Ms. Kassman was able to adapt to my writing style as I did hers, and effectively make myself sophomore research worthy of an A grade. Her professional and logical way of thinking has indeed assisted me in writing to my greatest potential, transforming effortlessly get A’s despite being in honors level classes with teachers who have high expectations.”