WBHS takes part in Harvard-led campaign for mental health

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 22, 2018

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — West Bloomfield High School is taking part in a campaign all about preparing students to create a better world.

The Common Good campaign is led by Harvard University’s Making Caring Common project and aims to motivate students to be constructive community members and for schools to take action to strengthen democracy. 

“We got involved because we’ve noticed at the high school that kids are really stressed with academics,” said WBHS Principal Pat Watson. “They feel they need to take six, eight, 10, 12 (Advanced Placement) classes, hoping there will be a magic formula, hoping to get admitted to a college of their choice.

“We needed to do more for mental health and the well-being of the students.” 

The goals that Harvard set for the campaign are to deepen students’ care for others and their communities, to increase equity and access for all students in the college admission process, and to reduce excessive achievement pressure. 

To help reach those goals, WBHS has implemented a social and emotional learning program called PrepareU into its curriculum. The school is also making sure staff teaches students the distinction between academic rigor and overdoing it. 

For the 2018-19 school year, the district is implementing a districtwide program called Capturing Kids’ Hearts, which focuses on building healthy relationships between teachers and students, as well as among students themselves. The program has been present in Orchard Lake Middle School, Abbott Middle School and Scotch Elementary School, but district Superintendent Gerald Hill said it should work well alongside the Common Good campaign. 

“Unless we have learning environments that are supportive of students and their needs, we can’t really accomplish what we need to,” he said. 

WBHS will work with students to create a more welcoming, inclusive and caring environment for others, and it will team up with other schools to promote and share ideas. 

Hill said that campaigns like this can help students transitioning into high school and those preparing to graduate.

“Having programs in place to be supportive of students going through transitions as well as ongoing activities that focus on mental health and social-emotional learning — that’s important,” he said. 

Watson said that he and other school officials have visited schools in Farmington Hills, Bloomfield Hills and Northville to help get them interested in the campaign. 

“Having spent 21 years at the high school, it’s more evident that kids are really struggling with mental health,” said Watson. “The things we’ve committed to, we feel like we can provide so (students) can be more successful.”

For more information about the Common Good campaign, visit www.mcc.gse.harvard.edu.