California Educator

October/November 2021

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Page 49 of 55

T H I R D G R A D E T E A C H E R Caroline Wiseman, like many educators, is seeing higher than ever levels of stress, anxiety and depression among her students. Some of this, of course, is due to the pandemic and the challenges of the past year and a half. But much is the result of children and youth experiencing difficulties as they navigate the increasingly complex social and emotional environment around them. Wiseman and her husband Graham know this all too well. In 2013, they lost their 15-year-old son Colin to depression and suicide. Since then, the Wisemans have actively supported mental health in schools across California. In 2019, they and friend Gail Miller founded BeingwellCA, a nonprofit based in Lafayette that raises the visibility of young people's mental health, and pro- vides schools, parents, students and communities with workshops, toolkits and trainings to improve mental health support. A key compon ent of BeingwellC A's w ork i s h elp- ing establish and fund school wellness centers. After seeing the benefits of a small wellness center at her school, Caroline Wiseman felt such a resource should be available to all children. To date, BeingwellCA has been instrumental in the creation of dozens of school wellness centers in multiple districts. But with 1,000 school districts in California, there are many cam- puses that still need them. BeingwellCA is behind Senate Bill 21 by Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa), which would establish a Cali- fornia mental health awareness license plate program to help the California Department of Education fund school wellness centers. If it is approved, the DMV will be authorized to issue the special license plate. "The proceeds from the purchase of the plate will fund wellness Advocate for Student Wellness Educator turns pain into passion to help young people's mental health centers on high school campuses throughout California," says Wiseman, a 33-year teaching veteran and Mt. Diablo Education Association member. "Mental health affects 1 in 4 people. Let's bring mental health to light, even if it's a traffic light." BeingwellCA held a contest for the license plate design, which was won by a high school s t u d e n t i n S a n R a m o n . Wi s em a n i s urging the public to show support for SB 21, currently under consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee, at Setting up a wellness center on campus requires a multipronged approach. The Wisemans and Miller spend a lot of time speaking with parent groups and PTAs, making them aware of the need. Parent foundations often donate money and help convince the school to fund a center, and sometimes funds come through grants and special programs. "We start by informing parents," Wise- man says. "The vast majority of schools n e e d h el p w ith fu n di n g . We n e e d fu n d s f rom th e license plate." W hi l e a major fo cu s i s on hi g h sch o o l wel ln e ss c e n t e r s , BeingwellCA also does outreach to elementar y and middle school communities. "Mental health affects 1 in 4 people. Let's bring mental health to light, even if it's a traffic light." Continued on page 50 48 CTA & You

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