Windsor Central Wellness Initiative & Mindful SELF Program

ottaquechee wellness school programs in vermont mindful selfThe Windsor Central Wellness Initiative (WCWI) is a collaborative effort of the Ottauquechee Health Foundation (OHF) and the Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District (WCMUUSD) to bring trauma-informed, social-emotional centered wellness programming to the students, families, school staff, and community members.

What does the Windsor Central Wellness Initiative address?

The WCWI seeks to address rising levels of psychosocial stress experienced by today’s youth, due in part to pervasive digital media and pressing sociopolitical issues, including gun violence, political conflict, concerns about climate change, and around the current COVID-19 pandemic. The American Psychological Association estimates that a majority of today’s Generation Z are burdened by high stress, which negatively impacts mental, physical, and emotional health. 

Many wellness modalities exist to protect against stress. The ancient practice of mindfulness – popularized by contemporary teachers such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, MD – has been shown to help improve attention, reduce anxiety, improve mood, increase immunity, and strengthen cognitive function. Every year, more schools across the country and beyond are integrating mindfulness and other contemplative practices into their school’s culture. Recognizing the powerful shift that mindfulness education creates, the Mindful SELF (Social Emotional Learning Foundations) program was launched in several of our district’s schools three years ago. The larger goal was to improve students’ social and emotional wellbeing. Led by mindfulness educator, Susan Mordecai, the program reached more than 400 students in five area schools. Student reports revealed improved mindful attention, compassion, kindness, and capacity to learn. 

Over the next 3-4 years, the WCWI will build upon the success of the Mindful SELF program by providing interventions that address the challenges of traumatic stress.

OHF’s WCWI Partner:

The Northeastern Family Institute (NFI) Trauma-informed Schools Program (TISP)

This program utilizes the experts at the NFI Vermont Trauma-informed Schools Program (TISP) and aims to increase workforce knowledge about the effects of traumatic stress, improve wellness, increase knowledge and implementation of trauma-informed practices and school-wide strategies, and integrate a cultural and equity lens to reduce disparities that may exist in district practices. The multi-year plan is customized by David Melnick in collaboration with select school and community stakeholders.

As a prominent and successful advocate for health in the community, the OHF is well-positioned to collaborate with NFI and the WCMUUSD to mobilize positive changes throughout the school system and larger community. OHF has already demonstrated its success as a health promotion organization through programs and initiatives that include the Good Neighbor Grant Program, the OHF Smiles oral health program, and of course the Mindful SELF program.

Data-driven results

Throughout the course of the program, data will be gathered to track program effectiveness using Mark Friedman’s model of Results-Based Accountability.  We hope to demonstrate that these programs: reduce stress levels for students, families, teachers, and administrators; increase mindfulness, compassion and attention; and improve academic performance and attendance. By demonstrating a positive impact on academic benchmarks, a case may be made for sustained school district funding.

We believe that the Windsor Central Wellness Initiative (WCWI), delivered as a comprehensive wellness program, will draw needed attention to the importance of stress management and holistic wellbeing.  The integrated interventions will equip students with a range of tools that reduce stress, enhance psycho-emotional well-being, cultivate resilience, and optimize long-term thriving.