Today’s students face many challenges, including the influence of social media, increased academic pressures, and the need for emotional resilience. In an ever-changing world, the importance of nurturing the emotional well-being of students alongside their academic growth has become increasingly necessary. PCEF and PCSD have taken a giant leap in addressing the demand for wellness by introducing a pioneering pilot program at Treasure Mountain Junior High (TMJH). This has been made possible thanks to a transformative gift to PCEF from the Lewis Family Foundation (LFF), a charitable organization that believes in giving back to the community where they live, work, and play.
The founder of the Lewis Family Foundation, Alan Lewis, who is no longer with us, understood the uneven playing field that young people often had to deal with but also saw the possibilities it held. He said, "The greater the difficulty, the greater the opportunity." Navigating life's complexities and challenges is no small feat, but by finding a way to help teenagers feel safe, engaged, connected and supported paves the path for personal growth, and their overall well-being is healthier.
Alan’s son and daughter-in-law, Ed and Caroline Lewis, were motivated by personal experiences of seeing the first-hand toxicity of social media, knowing their young girls, ages 7 and 3, will grow up in this digital-focused world. After doing research, including a timely Newsweek article where policymakers and educators said that schools must do a better job of addressing the emotional and social needs of high school students in the digital age, they knew they wanted to make a difference in their adopted hometown of Park City. The article pointed to schools who had long-term success in all areas, including academics, when wellness programs were implemented.
While there are many wellness components happening across PCSD, there is not a specific wellness position embedded within a school. After learning there was not yet a program like this in place in the Park City School District, the Lewis’s saw an opportunity to bridge the gap by partnering with PCEF and the PCSD to support this in their own backyard.
When referencing the momentum and energy behind the newly launched three-year pilot program Caroline Lewis said, “It’s nice to have the opportunity to have this program be a ‘first’ and hopefully a success.” She continued, “School is not just numbers. Wellness learning is such an important skill set to have in life and in being part of a community.” The Lewis's hope the program makes a positive impact at TMJH, and ultimately inspires other Utah schools to act as well.
The pilot program at TMJH began at the start of the 2023/2024 school year. The MTSS Wellness Coordinator will use the PCSD Wellness Plan, Utah State Board of Education Social and Emotional Learning Plan, and the Utah Portrait of a Graduate, as well as best practices from schools across the country. With three years of funding in place, there is ample time for school administrators and teachers to explore and refine the program through trial and error, training, and valuable teacher collaboration. With TMJH serving as the pioneer in PCSD, the hope is the learnings and best practices will expand into Ecker Hill Middle School and Park City High School as well.
Educator and Student Wellness is one of eight Signature Initiatives funded by PCEF to inspire all Park City students to successfully reach their academic and lifelong potential. Wellness is an essential subject.