Wellness club, a safe space for young minds

Meghan Wysocki '22, Copy Editor

Graphic by Meghan Wysocki.

For Megan Rabaut ’21, the lack of conversation about mental health was a gap that needed to be closed in South’s community. What started as a stressful discussion with geometry and psychology teacher Laura Distelrath about an upcoming math test turned into a vision for a simple idea: what if kids could come in half an hour before school to just talk about anything on their mind?

With that, Wellness Club was born.

Rabaut, who serves as president of the newly-started club, teamed up with classmate Sophie Hugh ’21, who took on the role of vice president with the help of Distelrath. Distelrath described the club as a safe space where people could share good things that happened in their lives and learn ways to help themselves when times get tough.

“Our purpose is to allow students to be able to learn some different stress-relieving techniques and ways to take care of themselves mentally,” Distelrath said. “We want kids to be prepared, so instead of hitting a point and getting super stressed out and overwhelmed, we’re teaching them to anticipate things like midterms and finals when we’re all a little more stressed. We’re just trying to stop members from getting to that point where they feel overwhelmed and out of control.”

After the initial conversation, Rabaut noted that Distelrath was chosen to be the adviser because of her energy and “strong mentality.”

“We chose Ms. Distelrath as our adviser because she is very good at coming up with proactive ways to combat problems,” Rabaut said. “She’s also just one of the teachers who’s actually my friend. I have been able to create a personal relationship with her, and I love her a lot.”

Meetings typically consist of conversation, snacks and a topic chosen specifically for that week, according to Hugh. Even though the club typically meets on “Wellness Wednesdays,” holding a meeting on the Monday before midterms allowed students to come in and mentally prepare before testing began.

“We had a slideshow with topics that related to midterms,” Hugh said. “Kerrigan Dunham ’21 also led some deep-breathing exercises, and we ate snacks and just talked to each other for the rest of the meeting.”

Distelrath believes that finding an outlet to relax is especially important because of South’s rigorous academic, art and athletic programs.

“I think that students at South have a lot of expectations (placed) on them,” Distelrath said. “We hold ourselves to such high standards. Sometimes people just need a break. Looking at building community and exploring fun ways to smile, relax and destress together is what we’re all about.”

While Wellness Club is focused on starting the conversation around stress management, the long-term benefits of maintaining good mental health are prolific, Rabaut said.

“For me, wellness contributes to everything else in my life,” Rabaut said. “My mentality needs to be stable to have a good week. Life is not fun when you’re not well. I value wellness because I feel like everybody should be able to enjoy life.”

While Wellness Club has only conducted four meetings, they plan on meeting every other week on Wednesdays, according to Hugh. The goal is to keep the atmosphere as relaxed as possible, so anyone feels like they can join at any time.

“We just want everyone to feel welcome,” Hugh said. “That’s a hard thing for a club to do. It’s a scary thing, going to a club where it’s all the same people. The nicest people I know come to Wellness Club. If anyone wants to come and meet friends who will be there for you and have your back, you should come to Wellness Club.”

Specific meeting times can be found by following their Instagram account @gpswellnessclub. The club meets in Ms. Distelrath’s room every other Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m.