When Bridgette Kelly became our Career & College Center Coordinator at Como Park Senior High School last fall, she knew the new school year would present unique challenges. Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the civil unrest over the summer and the continuation of distance learning – not to the mention the normal stresses seniors face during their final year of high school – she wanted to create a new space for seniors to connect and find support, while also preparing for careers and college.
In collaboration with her Como school counseling team, Bridgette has developed Senior Restore, a monthly community-building and wellness-centered gathering for Como High seniors. Launched in November, they have hosted three sessions to date, and over 50 seniors have participated.
The structure of each session is straightforward. It opens with a wellness practice such as yoga, reflection/meditation, expressions of gratitude or other activities designed to center students in their minds and bodies and build community in the group. Some of these practices are led by community-based practitioners of color, and Bridgette says this has been a very important aspect of the program. “Even in my own wellness and healing journey, it has been crucially important for me to see people who look like me working in this space,” she says. “I want my students to see people who look like them, too.”
The event then concludes with Bridgette and her team presenting the need-to-know career and college readiness information her students need, such as updates to the FAFSA process, deadlines for college applications and career training opportunities.
Bridgette recently completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training, and she believes that we need to normalize wellness practice for young people. “It has been such an emotionally tumultuous year for these students. When I can find ways to introduce wellness and healing work into their lives while also providing the support they need to plan for college and careers after high school, I’m going to do that,” she says.
Bridgette and her team hope to continue this program post-pandemic, and have been so encouraged by the outpouring of support from the school administration team, particularly from senior leaders.
“I think everyone really recognizes the incredible need for community and individual healing right now,” Bridgette says. “And while my job description focuses on post-secondary planning, it feels great to collaborate with the full Como High community and have space to be creative in the way we connect with and support our students.”