February 27, 2022
‘Self Care Fair’ at AHA Takes the Sting out of Stress
Stress can pull the joy out life, so students from the Academy of the Holy Angels developed a Self Care Fair. Held on the morning of February 16, this student-led event included multiple positive strategies for coping with stress.
AHA Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Danielle Holmes noted that the fair was an outgrowth of information she received from students that indicated their interest in learning more about mental health. Holmes said the fair included elements that honored Black History Month and the Lunar New Year, including the Afro-Beats & Pounds dance class led by Chelsea Deline (an adult presenter), and the chance to learn origami with Mia Chang (AHA ’24) and Asian lantern decorating with Faith Youn (AHA ’23).
Youn reported that the hand decorated lanterns will be displayed for the upcoming International Week celebration.
AHA English Department Chair Nancy Schneberger offered meditation, French teacher Gamma Hammond led yoga classes, and AHA parent Jeannine Deramo, a certified health and life coach, spoke about intuitive eating, which includes attitudes about food and being attuned to hunger signals.
Zuleima Noriega (AHA ’22) led her peers in painting and Zentangles. Erin Pav (AHA ’23) headed a cupcake decorating activity. Keira Footer (AHA ’23) shared her knowledge of succulents, and helped individuals plant their own to bring home. Rachel Mina (AHA ’23) presented an aromatherapy “lab,” where she helped decode how different fragrances influence the way people feel.
Holmes was delighted that middle school students were able to join in some of the fair activities with students from the high school. She gave the younger students a roll call welcome.
“Last spring, I asked students what are some areas they would like to learn more about in our community or what are some current needs,” Holmes explained. “I had some students come with various areas of interest. Mental health was one that came up a few times. Over the summer, we collaborated to come up with a plan/initiative to implement during this year.
“In October, I created and sent out a survey to get information on the needs, support, and areas of interest from the students regarding their mental health. Some themes arose, and this information is being implemented in a few ways to provide support for our community.”
Students recently shared information about what constitutes mental health, a look at mental health issues, strategies for coping with stress, and how to locate resources that lead to recovery. During the month of January, the AHA community was encouraged to participate in a Self Care Challenge. Each day, individuals were encouraged to participate in a simple, positive activity that would be relaxing and restorative.
“I really hope that we do this again soon,” one student said of the Self Care Fair. “It was a great experience, and I really enjoyed everything that was offered.”
Other Angels said they found the activities relaxing and enjoyable. One person called the fair her favorite part of the day. Several students said they would like to have programs like the Self Care Fair more often.
Holy Angels launched Wellness Wednesday in September 2019. This school-wide effort allows students to engage in faculty- and staff-led activities to de-stress and unwind. Holmes reflected that, unlike Wellness Wednesday, the Self Care Fair was developed for students by students with the help of others. She expressed her thanks for the support from the Academy’s administration, and the assistance from AHA families.
“I’m very excited about getting the parent collaboration,” Holmes said, adding, “I hope that our students feel that when they’re talking, they’re being heard.”
Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.