What Integrated Wellness Has Meant To Me


Hailey Swisher, Staff Writer

For the past two years, I have been working closely with some pretty amazing people. It started sophomore year of high school when I interviewed to be in a class I thought I was fully prepared to take on, yet I realize now that I didn’t know the half of what I was getting myself into.

Integrated Wellness is a gym class offered to juniors and seniors where you are buddied up each week with a new student with disabilities. You and your buddy go on walks together, play sharks and minnows, and best of all, matball.

Each week I grew close with a student who I wouldn’t normally be given the opportunity to get to know. Over the course of my time in the class, I built amazing relationships with these students, some of whom will be the hardest to let go of at the end of this year.

This class taught me lessons that no history or math class ever could.”

When I interviewed for the class, they gave me the rundown on what to expect: how I was expected to be a friend and a role model to them. However, they leave out the part where I would come out of the class a completely changed person.

This class taught me lessons that no history or math class ever could. The ELS classroom or Educational Life Skills is where I was supposed to teach the students useful skills they can use in life; however, over the course of my time in the class, the students taught me skills that I will carry on for the rest of my  life.

One thing I learned throughout my time in this class is that no challenge is impossible. Being disabled can be incredibly discouraging at times and I see the discouragement in the students every day.

However, working with these students, it is up to me to motivate them and reassure them that the challenges they face, they are so capable of.

They do not accept limitations nor do they let their circumstances determine what they can accomplish. Elliana Tribble is limited to a wheelchair, yet when the ELS basketball game came around, she scored multiple baskets. These small things inspire me to not be afraid of hardship and allow it to make me a stronger person.

Now when I am faced with something that fills me with doubt, I remember how all of the students turn their weaknesses into strengths.

They have also shown me that kindness never fails.

High school is a very difficult time, and I can recall a night when instead of sleeping, I was crying. The next morning when I walked into the ELS classroom, I was greeted by Jane Reilly.

“You’re so awesome,” she said. “I’m so excited we’re buddies.”

She said exactly what I needed to hear that day and showed me that I am valuable, important, and loved. She taught me that whether someone looks happy or sad, it is always the right time to say something kind and showed me just how far kind words can go.

The class has also taught me valuable communication skills.

Over the course of your time in the class, the students will teach you skills that you will carry on for the rest of your life. ”

When I’m buddied with a student labelled as nonverbal, I can hold a conversation with them. After knowing someone for awhile, we developed an understanding of one another, so strong that with even the simplest gesture or sound and I would know exactly what they were saying to me.

Tyler Fitzgerald, for example, is nonverbal, however he is one person I know who always has so much to say, and he makes sure to get his message across. Whether it be him telling me about how much fun he had at Croya or what he’s excited to do after school, Tyler makes sure he’s heard. He has patience and understanding because he is always motivated to get people to know him no matter how difficult it may be at times.

If you do have the opportunity to take this class, consider it. It will be difficult and it will challenge you in ways you never thought imaginable, but it will be the most impactful and rewarding times you will have throughout high school.