As one of the nation’s top-performing high schools, Los Altos is home to hundreds of talented, diverse individuals. As a result, the increasingly broad spectrum of students promotes an inherent sense of pressure and stress from environmental catalysts, such as parents and peers. Students often feel overworked from trying to balance sports, extracurriculars, school work and jobs, leading to a decline in overall wellbeing.
This long-standing issue of solving student stress has been a consistently debated topic among community leaders and educators. To advance the alleviation of stress among students, history teacher Sarah Alvarado developed a new leadership class this year, Student Community Leaders (SCL), a fifth period class open to all students, to target student wellness and reducing stress.
“The class is focused on helping students develop leadership skills and helping them be a larger part of their community,” Alvarado said. “Not only are you a member of this community, but how do you give back, how do you look out for each other, and empathize with your community so you can be an active participant and a leader.”
Backed by her extensive experience with student government and leadership during high school and college, Alvarado leads the fifth period class with a sense of community and empathy for others in terms of inclusivity and diversity. With the help of Assistant Principal Suzanne Woolfolk and Principal Wynne Satterwhite, the new class was developed in conjunction with the Associated Student Body (ASB). Despite their similarities in the leadership aspect, SCL focuses more on wellness and reducing student stress.
“I think ASB has done a really wonderful job having the diversity week that we have every year, but we’re trying to sort of expand on that especially because we have such an exponentially growing campus,” Alvarado said. “So many students that are coming here are freshmen from other countries so we want to celebrate the wonderfulness that is Los Altos as we’re growing and diversifying.”
In addition to the class, SCL recently created a club available for all students to join.
“We’re inviting students to come and participate during lunches on every other Friday so that they can also start learning some of those practices and have a place where they can come and realize that you’re not alone,” Alvarado said. “There are people here who care about you and want to hear what you’re struggling with and help you in any way they can, even if it’s just listening.
On most days, the students of SCL engage in mindful practices, like breathing exercises or expressing gratitude and appreciation for life. The class then moves into their respective subcommittees: club, wellness, diversity and community service.
“It’s really helpful, we have Ms. Alvarado there to help us, for the most part she is guiding us and letting us work individually or in a group on a certain task,” senior Nic Rodriguez said. “We all work together to help, but we each have a certain task that we have to do. We’re working with our groups until we have a class discussion where we put all the groups together for projects or community service events that we’re planning.”
The overall takeaway of the class is for students to hone their leadership skills and have a more positive outlook on life.
“I think for this year, the ultimate goal is for them to walk away from this class with some leadership skills under their belt and that they feel like they’re being appreciated in their community, but also expressing that same appreciation for that community,” Alvarado said.