Health and Wellness

The Wellness Program at Rutgers Preparatory School strives to cultivate an environment that supports the wellbeing of our students, families, and faculty. We encourage self-care practices and positive change on the individual and community level through education of physical, emotional and mental wellness.

Through close relationships we work to empower individuals to reach their full potential by teaching positive health-promoting behaviors. Throughout the Pre-K–12th grade experience, there are a variety of opportunities for reflection, connection, and intervention across varying dimensions of wellbeing. Stress and anxiety are a part of our lives and can deeply affect the ways students and faculty collaborate, learn and grow. Learning how to navigate these challenges is a skill that is important throughout school and life. Therefore, the work we do in classrooms, on the stage, the fields and the courts help our students to develop their own individualized practice for managing their overall wellness.

What is "wellness" and why is it important?

Wellness is a lifelong process of looking at different ways to make healthy decisions to live a more "balanced" and meaningful life. At Rutgers Preparatory School, educating students, faculty, and parents about wellness is an important part of daily life.

Students spend a significant amount of time in school, making it the ideal place to learn–not only academics, but also life skills that will serve them well beyond their years at Rutgers Prep. Our wellness team works to help provide workshops and opportunities for students and faculty as they identify the areas of wellness they will use to help cope with challenges and reduce stress. There are always new strategies to try that can be added to a student's self care toolbox. 

Where can you find wellness on campus?

Simply put–everywhere. Whether a student is participating in self care activities in our health classes, practicing a mindfulness breathing activity in Kindergarten or discussing ways to manage difficult emotions in the College Counseling Seminar Class the focus is always on building an understanding and a toolbox of practices to improve wellness. The Upper School has a dedicated space called the "Zen Den” where students can “re-set” - it is the only technology-free space on campus. Students can practice breathing exercises, relax with friends, color or even spend time with our therapy dog. The Happiness Club and The Mental Health Club are two clubs in the Upper School directly connected to wellness and self-care–both are student-led and help educate and discuss mental health, reduce stigma and support self-care practices. 

Liz Romage Quote
"Throughout my time at Rutgers Prep, something I have always been grateful for is the implementation of block scheduling. Having four classes a day rather than eight has made a huge difference in my educational and emotional experience at Rutgers Prep. Learning under this schedule has also enabled me to take more honors and AP classes, having the time to truly engage in them and not feel overwhelmed. It has also allowed me the time to participate in a multitude of clubs and sports to explore my interests. 
These are simply two ways I have been able to prioritize my mental health through our schedule, but there are so many! Perhaps my favorite is the fact that our schedule has allowed me to utilize different spaces on campus to take a breath from whatever is going on in my life, or just relax and reset. Walk by on a given day in the spring, and you’ll see countless students sitting on the swing by the Memorial Garden, or even taking a nature walk to get some fresh air! In particular, the Zen Den has been a great place for students to take the space they need for themselves. It’s a unique room that’s designed with mental health priority in mind; there are puzzles, meditation cushions, coloring books, and so much more! I often find myself there during my study hall periods, just sitting on the couch and reflecting, or trying to solve a puzzle. It’s just reassuring to know that there is a place on campus specifically dedicated to taking care of mental health, which has really helped me feel more supported and cared about as a student here."
–Liz Romage '22
David Merges Quote
"My teachers have been crucial in helping me with test-taking - they have taught me different strategies for managing my mental health, both before and during a test, like different breathing exercises and strategies to use when taking the test so I can stay calm and perform to the best of my ability. Rutgers Prep also has a ton of resources that are available to students - Mr. Gill and Ms. Riggi have been really helpful in teaching me how to manage my mental health through mindfulness exercises, and giving me strategies to get assignments done on time."
–David Merges '21
Leichena Young Quote
"I believe wellness is an ongoing journey of understanding who you are and what you need to function in a healthy, sustainable manner. Wellness can look different for everyone and part of the journey is exploring and utilizing what works for you. Taking care of yourself, your well-being and your physical, mental and emotional health all empower you to be present for others to do the same. At RPS, I feel that connections are important to foster this complete wellness. Connections can happen any and everywhere on campus and utilizing intentional times to make connections are part of our community. I feel grateful to be able to create, facilitate, and support opportunities for wellness here at RPS."
–Leichena Young, School Counselor

Mindfulness at Rutgers Prep

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Founder Jon Kabat-Zin developed Mindfulness-Stress Reduction in 1979 to initially support chronically ill patients not responding to treatment. The success of this program led to developing practices that can be used in daily life and through meditation practices.

Mindfulness doesn't mean we can't or won't experience negative emotions or failures, but it does mean we have the tools to manage these difficult situations in ways that help us learn and grow as individuals. As humans, we experience all types of emotions and make all types of mistakes, but we can be kind to ourselves and others, recognize how we can respond rather than react, and manage stress in a healthy way.

We are proud to have partnered with Mindful Schools to train faculty to teach mindfulness strategies and techniques in the classroom and throughout campus. Mindful School has been helping educators learn and teach mindfulness in order to help improve the ways in which our students learn and manage their mental and emotional health.

"Mindfulness is something we do in Kindergarten as a way to teach the kids how to focus their mind. Every day at morning meeting, we’ll ask kids to get into a calming position, to quiet their minds, and then we ask them to close their eyes and listen only to the sound of the singing bowl until they can’t hear it anymore. We practice that every day as a way to help them learn how to pay attention to something specific that we’re asking them to pay attention to."

– Wendy Jankowski
Lower School Teacher

Watch the Video

“One of the mindfulness practices I use in Middle School Science is called “thinking about thinking” - when we finish a unit, or a quiz, I have my students write down how they think they did, how they prepared for it, and then we reflect on how we can improve.”

– Heather Vaccarino
Middle School Science Teacher

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"In Health class in 9th and 11th grade we start every class with a mindfulness practice, and we often reflect on how these practices can be used in students’ daily lives - before a big test or athletic performance, before a difficult conversation with a friend or a teacher; even before moments of solitude."

– Jacquelyne Hern
Upper School Counselor and Health Teacher

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Social-Emotional Learning

The Social Institute (TSI) provides a social-emotional learning curriculum with the focus on using technology and social media in a positive, influential way. In the same way our faculty teach academic classes, our Upper and Middle School advisory program and counselors teach social-emotional skills through the #WinAtSocial curriculum. This gamified-technology based curriculum allows our students to identify ways to navigate technology while also learning about making connections with others.