Katie Andrino and Kaitlyn Hurtado were going to try belly dancing. Emily Hoffman and Donny Castaldo made seaweed crunch. Raquel Wasserman and Christina Carlson learned to make coils out of wire that would become artful pieces of jewelry.
These teens all participated in Fox Lane’s eighth annual Wellness Day held on Tuesday. The school-wide program has grown in scope and become more ambitious each year in its offerings to students, which ranged from flower arranging to self-defense to meditation to a workshop on self-acceptance.
“The best part of the day is just doing something different,” said Nestor Salazar, a senior who tried his feet at Latin dancing in a workshop called “So You Think You Can Dance?” He also went to a workshop on firefighting. “This day is all about being healthy and happy,” he said.
The day takes months to plan and about $20,000—much of it fundraised through grants and PTO contributions—to put on, said Robin Schamberg, an assistant principal and founder of the program. This year, a logo and tee-shirt unified the students visually and all four classes mixed together in the workshops—in years past, the students were divded into upper and lower grades.
Freshmen, sophomores and juniors wore the “Foxes Imagine,” tee-shirt, designed by Simon Abranowicz in honor of the 70th anniversary of John Lennon’s Imagine album, and seniors debuted their class shirt, designed by Everest Rainford.
Students seemed to value the day to take a break from challenging classes and studying for upcoming AP exams to expand their minds in a new direction.
“I knew about how food relates to nutrition, but I learned here how specific enzymes break down and affect your energy,” said Chris Reinhardt a senior who attended the “Eating for Athletes” session. His classmate, Jason Poon, said he was going to give coconut water a try as a way to replenish electrolytes after working out.
The day can have lasting effects, said student planning committee members, Renna Gottlieb, Roxy Rappaport and Gabrielle Alleyne.
“I still make recipes I learned from past cooking workshops,” said Gottlieb. “And I think this day strengthens the school community by having all the grades mix up together.”
Featured speaker Jamie Nabozny gave students a lot to think about, added Rappaport. Nabozny won a landmark lawsuit in federal court earning a safe educational experience for gay students.
“I think people will think twice about being a bystander to bullying,” she said. “Hearing him speak makes people want to take action.”
Nabozny showed a documentary film based on his experience to a packed auditorium of students and answered questions—from the curious, “how did you spend the $900,000 you won?” to the personal, “how did you feel when you were beat up for being gay?”
Nabozny told students that even though their school seemed like “a good school, a diverse school, a safe school,” there were still kids there that felt isolated and sad. “If 85 percent of you are not bullied or bulliers, then you are bystanders,” he said. “It takes courage to stand up.”
Emily Hoffman, a senior, said she was moved by the presentation and happy to see how supportive students were of each other during the post-film discussion, which became quite personal at times.
The program requires a committee of 22 student and faculty to put on over 40 workshops, two featured speakers and a lunch for the entire student body. Though “it’s a lot of work,” it’s well worth it, said Schamberg.
“One year, a student told me before wellness day that she wanted to be a professional soccer player, like Mia Hamm,” she said. “At the end of the day, she said she wanted to save the world. She’s now working at a non-profit doing human rights work.”