The “Big Blue Be Well” Student Wellness Fair took place outside of Paresky Commons on October 1, 2021. Hosted by the campus Wellness Collaborative—a group of campus adults from across departments working together to promote student wellness—the event featured groups such as the Academic Skills Center, Chaplaincy, Sykes counselors, Paresky nutritionists, and the Peer Listener program. Students stopped by the stations as they walked back from All-School Meeting (ASM) to participate in activities such as winning self-care items, distributing handouts about wellness programs, signing up for meditation services, and more.
According to Melissa Piantidosi, Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center Program Assistant, the aim of the Wellness Fair was to showcase various student support resources that are available across campus and make them more accessible to the student body.
“We realize that orientation can be overwhelming with lots of information, so we thought it’d be nice to give a refresher. It is also a part of our Big Blue Be Well initiative, which is really promoting a proactive approach to wellness for students,” said Piantidosi.
One of the stations hosted an activity in which students could spin the wheel and answer questions on topics such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress, and relationships to receive water bottles and bubble blowers. Students were additionally invited to share thoughts by writing down mental health tips and putting them up on the whiteboard.
Zadia Rutty-Turner ’23, one of the attendees of the Wellness Fair, appreciated the event’s role in exposing new and returning students to the resources available on campus and is hopeful for the school to continue to work on normalizing the act of asking for and finding help.
“There’s a lot of resources available on campus, and you don’t really have to look hard to find them. They’re certainly useful, and the school is trying their best to put them out there where students can easily look for… Other than just exposure to resources, which I think is a lot of help, just because a lot of people don’t know where to go sometimes, I think continuing to work on normalizing needing help [is important], because I think, at Andover, it’s not always the most encouraged to want help sometimes, because people always want to be seen as independent, ‘I don’t need help with this or that,’” said Rutty-Turner.
One of the featured student support services included the Sykes Counseling Service, a venue for students to seek mental health support. Students are able to schedule sessions with a counselor or speak with a nurse or counselor on duty.
“Through the counseling service, we make sure students are aware of that spiritual wellness because there’re so many different forms of wellness. It’s multi-dimensional. It’s not just getting medicine when you’re sick, right, so we’re really trying to encourage people to take care of themselves, and realizing that self-care is important,” said Piantidosi.
Another resource, the newly introduced Peer Listener Program, helps students take one step forward to the initiative for self-care, according to Assistant Athletic Trainer Devin O’Reilly. While the program is still in the process of finalizing schedules and places to meet, students can still reach out to Peer Listeners to access the service.
“The program is set up where students can interact with their peers and engage in conversation about things that are going on in their life where they can have a peer perspective. Students in the peer listening program have been trained to listen and help their peers progress through life at Andover,” said O’Reilly.
Similarly, the Peer Tutor program run by the Academic Skills Center provides students the opportunity to seek help on academics from other students with prowess in different subjects. Aria Erickson ’25, one of the attendees of the event, noted that many students have been running late at night doing work. Erickson believes that Peer Tutors could be a great resource for those wanting extra guidance on any subject.
“My biggest takeaway is that there’s probably more support than I thought was out there. Everybody’s really nice… I feel like just having somebody that cares is very good to just know that there are people who can help,” said Erickson.
In addition to academic support, the Community and Multicultural Development (CaMD) Office and Brace Center for Gender Studies were also at the Wellness Fair introducing students to spaces providing mental support, building community in affinity spaces, and bonding through clubs and groups connected to identity. Students were encouraged to ask questions as well as sign up for speaker events and clubs.
Piantidosi, who found the event to be successful at gathering student engagement, hopes to organize similar events in the future.
“I hope to do more things of this nature, coming out to where the students are and being available for [students to] ask questions when someone might be reluctant to go seek answers. Students might feel more comfortable face-to-face and putting some faces to names of the various people that are available to them,” said Piantidosi.