WellAhead to improve mental health

The Okanagan Skaha School District is one of six school districts in British Columbia participating in WellAhead.

The Okanagan Skaha School District is one of six school districts in British Columbia participating in WellAhead, a new philanthropic initiative of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

The initiative aims to improve child and youth mental health by integrating wellbeing into school communities.

“The fact that School District 67 was selected from 41 applicants across B.C. for this innovative project speaks highly to the quality of education that our schools are delivering,” said Wendy Hyer, superintendent of schools for the district. “We have a community that shares a strong passion for supporting the wellbeing of our children and youth and this unique opportunity for further collaboration with our community will most certainly result in a positive impact on the wellbeing of our youth.”

During October, students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and others in the community will take part in “ideation” sessions: opportunities to brainstorm school-based approaches that positively affect how students feel. These can be small actions, new routines or everyday activities that can become part of a school’s set of daily practices.

“The changes Well-Ahead is looking for are those that schools can easily implement without investing major resources,” said Stephen Huddart, president and CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

“The initiative will help improve understanding of how change happens in schools, and whether everyday practices can be an effective means of improving social and emotional wellbeing.”

The public can also contribute ideas through an online public engagement platform, which will go live in November.

This process will supplement the ideation sessions and lead to the selection of new ideas. Starting in 2016, WellAhead will support districts in the work of “prototyping” — trying out and evaluating some of the proposed new ideas and practices to determine their impact and longer-term feasibility.

Jenny Mitchell is the community liaison for the school district. She can be reached at JMitchell@summer.com.