Francis Parker School believes that supporting the whole child–mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally–is foundational to the pursuit of academic excellence. In support of this assertion, the School named Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies as a pillar within the current Strategic Direction. Elevating this effort to a named initiative enabled the Parker administration to build a support system of mental health professionals and other academic and social support resources for our students. 

Led by Parker’s Head of Student Success and Wellness, Dr. Megan Storey Hallam, Parker’s student success and wellness department is charged with providing age-appropriate assistance and programming to all students. Since joining the School in 2022, Megan has worked with her team to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of the student success program by creating a culture of wellness at Parker that is grounded in collaboration with faculty and the community. 

Since our 2023 report on this program—published in the 2023 Parker Magazine—the team reviewed and refined the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum across the school. One major outcome of this process introduced the provision of entire grade-level live counselor-led lessons and a video series for the Lower School. Additionally, the group deepened their library of resources and training materials in service of providing tiered levels of support for both students and teachers, beginning with differentiated classroom instruction or social-emotional support. 

While assessing Parker’s SEL programming, the department determined a new process for requesting accommodations with the College Board. This workflow now aligns with industry best practices and ensures both clarity and equity for students requiring accommodations for standardized testing.

One intended outcome for changes implemented by Parker’s student success and wellness department was to deepen the program’s impact on the everyday classroom experience. With this in mind, the team built and presented a series of professional development sessions for faculty and advisors in Grades 6-12 to strengthen their skills in supporting students and understanding when to refer a student or family to other support professionals at Parker. Additionally, the team has provided grade-level information on SEL strengths and areas for growth, derived from assessments such as the Independent School Health Check survey and teacher evaluations of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) SEL standards for students in Grades PK-5. 

Parker’s student success and wellness department embraces partnership between the School and Parker Parents/Guardians as paramount to effectively supporting individual student wellness. To expand these relationships, the department presented at a Parent Association meeting this year with a session focused on how to distinguish between normal feelings of worry or sadness and those that may indicate anxiety or depression symptoms. As a takeaway treat, the team conducted activities during the session to help parents/guardians continue SEL work at home to build their child’s toolbox of coping skills for feelings of worry or sadness.

While the program has seen many beneficial changes in the last two years, ongoing initiatives center student and family connections through the lens of Character Education and SEL programming. Student Success and Wellness has also been training the Associated Student Body’s Wellness Committee to empower student leaders with knowledge about mental health and wellness so they may build stronger relationships with their peers. 

Francis Parker School looks forward to reporting back on this progress in the months and years ahead as the program grows in both scope and impact on the lives of students and the broader School community.