Choose Your Own Venture

“I am a marijuana addict.” Those were the first words out of his mouth. I immediately sat up a little straighter, stunned and paid closer attention to the man in front of the Junior class. He was a Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) Prevention Specialist, there to educate Juniors in our mandatory Wellness Week Workshop. By the time the program had ended, I felt much more informed about the dangers of drugs and alcohol from his first-hand experience.

But as engaging as the FCD workshop was, it only touched upon a single aspect of wellness, leaving Juniors uneducated about other facets of health and well-being. Lowers, Uppers and Seniors had their choice of elective workshops exploring topics ranging from sexual assault to body image in addition to a mandatory session. While Juniors certainly gained a better understanding of substance abuse, the FCD workshop was their only option.

This year, Andover added an additional Cultural Competency 101 workshop to the Junior requirements. I believe that this is not enough.

Last year, Wellness Week fell right in the midst of my personal struggle to lose weight. What I had naively called a diet was, in fact, a set of unhealthy eating habits. I had heard that eating at night caused extreme weight gain, so I frequently ate very little for dinner, or skipped the meal altogether. Then, late at night, I found my stomach growling and ended up eating junk food at midnight to satiate my hunger. When I found myself not losing weight, I constantly felt guilty and upset.

Looking back, I wish I had had the opportunity to attend a workshop on eating disorders or body-positive culture that was available to upperclassmen: I did not know that there was a better, healthier way of dieting, and none of my Junior peers knew to tell me otherwise. Thankfully, with the help of my mother, I quickly rectified my decisions, but other students may not be so lucky.

Frankly, my needs were in no way addressed by the FCD workshop on drugs and alcohol. As a result, Wellness Week did very little to actually improve my wellness. If I had chosen an elective workshop my Junior year, perhaps I would have had a healthier body image earlier on.

I strongly believe that Andover should offer Juniors a greater selection of Wellness Week workshops, especially because Juniors are the youngest on campus, often naive, susceptible to mental health issues and lack the initiative and bravery to reach out for help. Both the FCD workshop on drugs and alcohol and Cultural Competency 101 should be mandatory, of course, but time could be made for more.

Every year, Wellness Week is a time for students to learn about health and wellness and prompt necessary and relevant discussion on such issues; however, in reality, only from Lower year forward do students get to engage in the workshops that are most relevant to them. Juniors need to have their choice of workshops so that they too can take full advantage of Wellness Week.

_Sewon Park is a two-year Lower from Hong Kong, China. _