Social Work Students Connect with High School Students on Health & Wellness

Social Work Students Connect with High School Students on Health & Wellness

The students spoke to over 1200 students at Bethel High School at their Wellness and Kindness Assembly.

This spring, Fairfield Egan social work students led the Wellness and Kindness Assembly of over 1200 students at Bethel High School. 

“It was an honor to be called upon and they are excited to do it,” said undergraduate social work program director and assistant professor Kim Oliver, PhD, MSW, LCSW. “These are students who have been ambassadors at the Jordan Porco Foundation among many other things—they are our best and brightest and we are really proud of them for doing this.”

The five-year BSW/MSW social work program launched in 2019 as a result of the growing need for social work professionals. The program educates aspiring social workers, and prepares them to respond to inequities, organize resources in the community, address policy issues, and engage in research that can lead to creative and evidence-based solutions to social problems.

The Wellness and Kindness Assembly is part of Kindness Week, an annual event at Bethel High School. The school-wide assembly featured Fairfield University students Elise Palumbo ’23, and Jessica Horne ’23 alongside University of Connecticut master’s student Alyeska Tilly as this year’s keynote speakers.

“The purpose of this assembly is to amplify the importance of mental health while bringing students together. Post-pandemic, social isolation has been a major concern among young people. Bethel High School’s initiatives bolster social connection while providing psychoeducation about mental health,” said Palumbo.

At the event, the students discussed breaking the stigma of mental health through educational materials and exercises, and shared personal mental health struggles they experienced.

“As a social work student, talking about mental health is something that I do almost daily however, I know for students of other backgrounds, and at the high school level, this is not the case,” explained Horne. “It felt good being a part of the mental health conversation at the high school level as normalization of mental health care and combating the stigma surrounding mental health is crucial for all, but especially high school students.”

On her experience, Palumbo said participating in this program was a gift and was able to collaborate with high school students. “It was uplifting to see high school students interested in making a difference and sharing their mental health wisdom. My biggest takeaway from this experience was that although youth mental health continues to be a concern, there are many young people energized and brave enough to combat the issue.” 

Horne added, “By sparking conversations in communities, there becomes a sense of normalization around this otherwise taboo topic. Knowing that you are not alone and that others have experienced something similar to you is a powerful thing to know and can be essential in the healing process.”

Learn more about the program at fairfield.edu/bsw.

Tags:  Egan School

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