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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

San Marcos High School Students Make Wellness Connection with Therapy Dogs

With overall focus on teens and mental health, new campus club uses pet project to provide stress relief during finals week

 

High school students sighed a breath of fresh air Thursday afternoon after occupying classrooms and study areas, flipping through textbook pages, writing down notes and answering test questions.

It was time to ease stress after finals week at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara.

In an effort to rid some of the tension from the stressful testing schedule, members of the school’s new Wellness Connection Club offered a chance to relax by interacting with dogs.

The group partnered with the Santa Barbara chapter of Love on a Leash, or LOAL, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing pet therapy services.

Research has shown that pet interaction decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol while increasing endorphins.

“If you watch the students playing with the dogs you will see that the students are laughing and having fun,” LOAL member Susan Kohl explained. “The students are spending time away from themselves, and for the moment, are relaxed.”

The school quad was filled with bright-eyed students as they stopped by to pet, play and snuggle with a handful of certified therapy canines.

“Petting a dog is comforting,” said Gwen Dandridge, who was there with Maddie, her 5-year-old Golden Retriever. “People smile when they see a therapy dog and smile more when they are petting it.

“Our dogs just want to be loved and are eager to befriend anyone.”

Thursday was the first time the club made dog therapy available for students.

“We hope to offer this every semester,” San Marcos High junior Alexandria Marx told Noozhawk. “Even if it brightens just one person’s day and makes them smile, that will deem the event successful. We want happy, smart students at San Marcos.”

The Wellness Connection Club at San Marcos was founded this year by Marx and ninth-grader Emily Steidl, who serve as co-presidents. It meets twice a month on the campus, at 4750 Hollister Ave.

It already has more than 30 members and is modeled after the Santa Barbara City College Wellness Connection Club. The club also works closely with the nonprofit Mental Wellness Center.

“There is a lot of stigma around the words mental health, and we know there are students on our campus struggling with depression and anxiety,” Steidl noted. “We want to create more awareness and make it easier for them to ask for help.”

Club member Will Pace, a ninth-grader, said the group offers a safe environment where students can express their feelings and talk about struggles or conflicts.

“High school can be an especially stressful time,” he said. “It’s important to have people who care about you to rely on.”

Click here for more information about the San Marcos High School Wellness Connection Club.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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