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Education Station: Wednesday Wellness for the Win at Archbishop Hoban in Akron

When Archbishop Hoban scheduled downtime for students, some balked at first. Now they're believers.

AKRON, Ohio — Welcome to Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron.

It is known for rigorous academics, scholastic excellence, and athletic achievements. But Hoban administrators realized much of the student body shared a common problem: they were overscheduled and stressed out.

"They go right from school to lifting for practice, then practice, then their softball pitching coach, or their trainer, ACT mathematics of what-have-you. Some go to jobs. We have this overscheduled generation that needs some downtime occasionally," said T.K. Griffith, who is Archbishop Hoban's principal as well as the men's head basketball coach, and AP Language and Composition instructor.

Overscheduling is a problem facing many teens today. Hoban decided to address it by rolling out a pilot program called Wellness Wednesday.

"We would have a menu of 40 to 50 items on Wednesdays that (students) could go to blow off some steam, but also develop some social-emotional wellness in their life," Griffith explained.

Hoban worked with SchoolJoy, a company helping educators with student life management, to come up with a plan. 

About 40 minutes - a few Wednesdays a month, students choose an teacher-led activity - as wide ranging as a Stephen King book club, crocheting, cards, and even some heart-pumping activities like "four-square"

"I've played card games, I've played bocce down by the field. I just got back from doing some improv games with some people in theater, which was fun," said Senior Colin Doss.

Programs focusing on social and emotional learning not only can lead to better grades and behavior, but they also show improvements in mental health according to a study published in the Journal of School Health.

"Just that break. I personally think it helps me retain information more just because it's a quick reset middle of the week." shared senior Frank Bradshaw.

"We wanted to come up with a more organic and authentic way for kids to kind of connect with teacher mentors, but also with fellow students, in areas that they might gravitate towards more authentically and naturally." Griffith explained.

Immediate benefits are obvious. The hope is that as students head out into the world, they recognize the lifelong benefits of taking healthy "me-time" to balance and re-set the best versions of themselves.

"Having that break really just helps you just relax and I feel like it helps you reach your fullest potential," said Senior Khori Davis. 

Griffith says the idea of the program was met with some initial pushback. Students wanted to use the time to study or catchup on homework.  There is that option, though students are encouraged to benefit from the 40-minute stress reliever. Students can also use that time to work with mental health or a grief counselor.

Wellness Wednesday block replaced a traditional advisory period. Students in need can also use that time to work with mental health or a grief counselor.

Wellness Wednesday is a pilot program. It is still being improved, and changes made from suggestions. Recently, a number of other schools were invited in to Archbishop Hoban to see how Wellness Wednesday works. 

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