Upper Columbia Academy Celebrates Opening of the Wellness Center

Upper Columbia Academy’s philosophy to educate the whole person has expanded to include an on-campus counseling and wellness center. Thanks to a $130,000 grant from generous donors, the Olin Peach Power House has been remodeled into a mental health wellness center where students can receive mental health screenings, individual and group therapy, college and career guidance counseling, and tools for stress management. 

Over the last few years, UCA’s staff have worked diligently to encourage a culture where seeking help for mental wellness is recognized as a positive choice. As recently as 10 years ago, less than 1% of the student body requested professional counseling services, but in the last few years that has increased to about 10%. For many teenagers, the unrest and isolation of this last year marked another increase in the desire for the tools, connections and partnering with a mental health professional.

“Mental wellness is intrinsically intertwined with our students’ lives. When they are emotionally healthy, they can focus on their academic, social and spiritual lives. Alternatively, if they are falling apart psychologically, every exam triggers anxiety, every relationship leads to questions of self-worth, and they struggle to see God’s purpose for their lives,” says Michelle Melendy, UCA teacher and wellness center clinical director. In its first official month of operation, more than 20 students have already established care with a Christian counselor through the wellness center and two group therapies are underway.

Though counseling services are a major part of the wellness center, UCA also envisioned a space where students could go to destress and unwind with quiet activities that promote creativity and relaxation. Different stations are designed for painting with watercolors, sketching, coloring, Lego building, sculpting with modeling clay or Kinetic Sand, and a sensory bin. Aromatherapy, a light-therapy “happy” lamp and an electric massage recliner chair assure an even more appealing environment. 

Eric Johnson, UCA principal, is excited about what the wellness center is already accomplishing on UCA’s campus, as well as the possibilities for growth in this important ministry for its students. “We feel so blessed to have this important service right here on our campus where our students can gain tools and insight toward being mentally healthy as they navigate through these current difficult times and where they can also develop skills they will take with them into adulthood," Johnson says.

Featured in: March/April 2021