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Burbank Unified tries to put spotlight on wellness

Burbank Unified tries to put spotlight on wellness
Johanna Chase, Burbank Unified's director of wellness, talks about the program she leads at a joint Armenian National Committee of America Burbank Chapter and Burbank Unified presentation of the district's Wellness Department at the Burbank Youth League on Wednesday. (Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

High school can be a challenging environment for students loaded with pitfalls ranging from bullying to stress.

Burbank Unified officials are not only cognizant of those issues, but they have created a wellness department that offers several programs to address student and parent needs.

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School district and wellness officials, however, are admittedly having their own problems.

“I just don’t know how many people are aware of these programs,” school board member Armond Aghakhanian said. “The district offers help, but many parents are not taking advantage of these options.”

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The district’s wellness department, in conjunction with the Burbank chapter of the Armenian National Committee, held an introduction meeting Wednesday at the ACF Beshir Mardirossian Burbank Youth Center.

Only 30 people attended and most of them had ties to the school district, city or public safety agencies.

“Cities, nonprofits and the school districts all work together, and we’ve been doing that for many years here in Burbank, but not everybody knows about those services,” Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said. “So the goal tonight was to share the resources that we have.”

That task of informing the public on Wednesday fell to Johanna Chase, the district’s director of wellness.

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While there are student-care centers staffed by Burbank Family Service Agency employees at Burbank and Burroughs high schools, Chase pointed out that wellness services can be found on every campus in Burbank Unified.

“Our department provides support to all of our health services, which is all of our nurses and our health-service assistants throughout our schools in our district,” Chase said.

Chase gave examples such as clinical support for an injured student, emotional assistance in deescalating tension and helping students with diabetes.

Many of the services can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2GnsT7H.

There, parents and students can find ways to report bullying as well as access suicide prevention resources and training.

Chase said the wellness department follows the “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child” model that includes an emphasis in 10 areas, including physical education, health education, health services and family engagement.

Chase added, however, that the services offered will have limited impact without parental involvement.

“Right around fourth and fifth grade is when parents and adults are not as important as peers and friends, and you start to see that shift just a little bit,” Chase said.

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“That’s even more important of the time to build a relationship with your children and tell them you love them and support them and help and guide them along the way,” she added.

On Jan. 9, Luther Burbank Middle School, located at 3700 W. Jeffries Ave., will host a drug awareness panel discussion that will include medical and law-enforcement experts.

Chase also said a community meeting about domestic abuse was close to being finalized and will likely be held on Feb. 6 at Burbank High, located at 902 N. Third St.

“It’s important the community knows they have these resources available,” Chase said. “We want to make sure that there is support and resources for some of the most challenging years of a student’s life.”

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