New Wellness Program at Our Lady of Mercy Academy
Building Upon Years of Excellence
Principal Sandra Betters is excited to announce new and progressive enhancements to daily life at Our Lady of Mercy Academy. The all-girls high school is implementing a comprehensive Wellness Program that aims to benefit all current and prospective members of OLMA.
Building upon a decades-rich reputation of academic excellence, Our Lady of Mercy Academy is actively responding to the needs of its current student population and the growing needs of all young women. “No longer can academic institutions focus on content-building without addressing the pressing need for attention to overall wellness and the intentional delivery of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL),” Betters explains. Among the many benefits woven into the new Wellness Program is the opportunity for students to conference with guidance counselors, in small peer groups, during each academic cycle. The groups will discuss topics related to reducing anxiety and promoting prosocial behaviors such as empathy and kindness. Students will also attend classes that foster grade-level skills related to executive functioning and college preparation. Moreover, this initiative will implement a daily schoolwide break that will provide both students and staff/faculty an occasion to participate in mindfulness and meditation exercises, further prompting a holistic, healthful lifestyle for all members of the community. One of the aims is to teach important elements of self-care that will prove beneficial to students throughout their lives.
In an effort to provide exceptional academic support to all types of learners, new faculty will join OLMA with expertise in alternative learning strategies, thus addressing the need for differentiation. These added members will provide not only small-group instructional settings for students, but also co-teaching experiences for faculty.
This robust, new Wellness Program is the first of its kind among the Catholic high schools on Long Island. However, Betters points to the fact that, in the summer of 2018, the New York State Education Department passed benchmarks that mandated SEL for kindergarten through twelfth grade in all New York schools, including both public and private venues. Betters hopes that additional schools will follow suit, providing their students with opportunities to thrive in ways that reach far beyond report card grades. As noted in various national studies, students who are exposed to intentional measures to achieve wellness, including SEL, are more likely to succeed in academics, careers, and life. SEL is powerful, and it not only can transform school climates, but also, in keeping with Our Lady of Mercy’s mission of service and social justice, can impact the issues that society, as a whole, is battling.
“Student wellness must begin the moment we first meet our students, during the admissions process. It continues as we partner with students and their families to carefully select courses that will promote academic growth for the individual student, recognizing her academic strengths and the areas in which she requires further support. Building a positive relationship with each student is the first step in a holistic approach to overall growth and wellness. At Our Lady of Mercy Academy, we aim to work closely within our Mission to provide a compassionate atmosphere that responds to individual needs. Through our new wellness approach, we endeavor not only to serve our current community, but also to make our ‘Mercy Experience’ accessible to all those who seek a faith-filled, all-girls education. We are carefully examining ways to meet the needs of the diverse learners who make up today’s generation of young women,” notes Betters.
Additionally, Betters comments, “Our school fulfills a moral imperative when it secures the well-being of our students. The Wellness Program at Our Lady of Mercy Academy affirms this commitment.” Funded through a lead campaign gift from Kathi and Paul Barnett, the program unites spiritual, mental, academic, and psychological wellness services under one umbrella, while offering students an opportunity to access a holistic education guided in the charism of the Sisters of Mercy.
To learn more about this Wellness Program, email wellness@OLMA.org.