Meet Scout, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever. Rachel Narrow, our elementary school social worker, has raised Scout since he was two-months old, and trained him to serve as a therapy dog. He comes by two days per week to greet students, staff, and families during arrival, and meet with students and staff throughout the day.
Therapy dogs are an important component of our wellness program at our high school and elementary school. Scout and Hart are not service dogs, but play a unique and calming role in our school community. For instance, Scout helps staff and students alike, feel relaxed, makes them smile, and positively affects the drop-off environment at the beginning of the school day. Scout loves to greet everyone in the morning during arrival. Even family members dropping their students off love to give him a quick pet hello – with one parent saying: “Seeing Scout in the morning makes drop off so much easier. My student loves seeing him, and I can’t help but have a better commute to work on those mornings.”
Adults instantly cheer up and smile. Shy and reluctant kids start talking. One student, for example, loves Scout. This student has some significant speech delays, but is always excited to say, “Hi Scout!” Last year, two students wrote about how Scout helps them to calm down and motivates them to focus on their learning. Their connection to Scout gave them the confidence to read their writing aloud at the All-School Meeting in front of the whole school while Scout joined them on stage.
In addition to our beloved Scout and Hart, our Wellness Program includes many more supports for our students. When E.L. Haynes opened in 2004, our founders had a vision for a school that provided comprehensive wrap-around supports for our students and families.
We provide students with the supports, strategies, and tools necessary to promote perseverance, resilience, pride, and success. With more clinicians than most schools both locally and nationally, we center our services on prevention, education, and counseling. Our wellness work positively impacts our students’ experiences and academic success across all three campuses – it helps students regulate their emotions, find a trusted adult to share concerns and process emotions for socio-emotional health, and find ways to cope and manage stress, grief, anxiety, or trauma in order to function better in schools.
A Community School, we partner with Mary’s Center, to provide our families with access to medical, dental, and mental health services. Founded in 1988 and located around the corner from our campuses, Mary’s Center serves families from across the DC region.
As a culminating annual event, we bring together Mary’s Center alongside other community partners committed to holistic health and wellness at our annual campus-wide Wellness Day to give students and families the opportunity to gain further understanding about their personal wellness and develop skills to enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
This work is possible through the tremendous support of external partners, funders, families, and students. Our strong commitment to student wellness shows everyone in our community that mental and physical wellbeing go hand-in-hand with the academic work needed to prepare out students for successful futures.