The following is an op-ed by columnist Elizabeth Porter for her column, “The Final Word.” All of the opinions and viewpoints expressed within the article are solely that of the author and may not reflect the beliefs of The Forest Scout newspaper.
Taking half a day off of school to go on a two mile walk around town, then hanging out on the front lawn eating, playing games and listening to music sounds like a pretty great day for a high school kid, right? Well, apparently not to many LFHS students.
It is no secret that the Wellness Walk often becomes the scapegoat for yet another May absence for upperclassmen. In my opinion, however–with the school year in its waning moments–we should embrace this opportunity and relish in the celebration that is the Wellness Walk.
The Wellness Walk is happening this Tuesday starting at 10:00 am. In previous years, the Wellness Walk happened every other year, and E-day happened every year. This year, there was no E-day, but we will be having the Wellness Walk even though we had it last year as well.
LFHS’s wellness initiative began 11 years ago, in an effort to promote acceptance, empathy, integrity, and responsibility/accountability. The motto of the day is “enjoy the journey” which is a reminder to students to take a break from their hectic academic, athletic, and social lives to spend time with friends and appreciate their time in high school.
It is widely understood that high school students– maybe even Lake Forest High School students especially–are stressed out. The purpose of the Emotional Wellness Initiative events such as E-day, Chill Scout Days, and the Wellness Walk, is to alleviate that stress. I know it may seem like these events are not enough to counter the sometimes crushing weight of expectations, heavy workload, and busy schedules of many LFHS students, but it’s an effort. So why do so many students reject it?
Why was there a line down the hall to get called out of E-day? Why did so many kids sneak off-campus during the Wellness Walk last year just because attendance wasn’t being taken? The same thing happens at pep-rallies and other events that are supposed to be a fun break from the typical schedule and promote unity among students. None of this would be possible without the participation of parents. Parents, if your kid asks you to call them out of events like this, encourage them to attend. Whatever they plan on doing instead (which I’m sure isn’t homework) pales in importance to supporting mental and emotional wellness.
Even though attendance isn’t as strictly enforced at these events as it is on a regular school day, by ditching them you are opposing the very principles they are meant to promote. These events are for us, the students. I assure you the administration could decide to save the money and have a regular school day. The teachers could take back the class time that they lose. These events are a gift, to us, from our school. So why can’t we play along?
I would like to ask every kid who is planning to go off campus during the Wellness Walk, what better thing do you have to be doing during these two or three hours? You can hang out with your friends here, you can eat good food here, you can rest and relax here. What will you be doing at home? Taking a nap? Watching TV? Doing homework? You will have plenty of time to do all of those things when you get home.
As cliché as this sounds, one day you’re going to look back on high school. You’re not going to remember doing homework, taking naps, and watching TV. You’re going to remember all the things you could have gotten called out of or left early from: Homecoming, sports games, pep-rallies, the ELS game, fundraisers, emotional wellness days. These are days that make LFHS unique and that you should be eager to participate in and enjoy.
Enjoying the journey does not mean participating in as little of the journey as you can and getting called out of the rest. It means immersing yourself in the great opportunities you have. It means attending things, even if you won’t get a saturday detention if you don’t. Showing enthusiasm and participating shouldn’t be uncool. Maybe to some people it is, but those are the people who are going to look back on high school and wish they did more.
I know last year’s Wellness Walk wasn’t perfect. It was freezing cold but that’s not an excuse. The weather app on my phone promises 85 degrees and sunny on Tuesday.
According to the school website, on Tuesday “we will walk as a school to celebrate community, congratulate our graduating seniors, and give a final thanks to those faculty and staff retiring.” I hope to see you there. Because even if a majority of my friends leave, I’ll be there. It’s not a huge thing– missing one Wellness Walk. You may even wonder why I care enough to say anything about it. But it’s the principle of it. High school is more than going to class, practice, and then home. And when your school gives you an opportunity to do something fun you should take it.