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American Canyon High School front sign
Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle

Having established centers that provide counseling and mental health services to middle school students, the Napa Valley Unified School District is now working on creating a wellness center at American Canyon High School.

A wellness center at ACHS “is very much needed,” according to Laura Mooiman, NVUSD’s program specialist for positive behavior intervention and support.

Mooiman appeared before the American Canyon City Council last week to talk about the school district’s progress in developing wellness centers at all four middle schools.

The first two wellness centers — which are staffed by counselors, social workers, psychologists and school nurses — were opened last year at American Canyon Middle School and Harvest Middle School in Napa. Earlier this month, Silverado and Redwood middle schools in Napa opened their wellness centers.

Those staffing the centers help students deal with difficult issues such as stress, trauma, suicidal feelings, bullying, depression, self-esteem, and relationships.

Mooiman told the City Council that a recent health survey revealed many students at ACHS are struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

“It was pretty shocking for us” when we pulled the data together, said Mooiman.

They then conducted a focus group at ACHS and identified some subgroups of kids “we’re really worried about,” she said.

Mooiman singled out Filipino students — who make up about a third of the ACHS population and are the second largest group on campus after Hispanics — as a particular cause for concern.

“Preliminary analyses of the California Healthy Kids Survey data revealed elevated rates of depression among the Filipino population when compared to our non-Filipino ACHS students,” Mooiman told the American Canyon Eagle.

She added that the district is “continuing to explore possible causes of this and how those possible causes might inform our practice and response to all students suffering from depression.”

Filipino students are known for their academic success.

The new accountability “dashboard” created by the state for NVUSD shows Filipinos outpacing other student groups in the classroom.

In a district whose highest achievement, according to the dashboard, is graduation rate, Filipino kids have one-upped everyone else. NVUSD’s overall graduation rate is 95.4 percent, which is excellent for any school district.

The Filipino graduation rate is even higher: 97.1 percent.

Their success is apparent in other metrics on the NVUSD dashboard.

Filipinos are classified as “high” achievers in both English Language Arts and mathematics, based on the most recent standardized Common Core test scores. District wide, NVUSD students were rated “low” achievers in both of these categories.

Following Mooiman’s presentation to the City Council, Mayor Leon Garcia mentioned another student group that might be struggling with anxiety and depression at the high school: immigrant children.

Garcia said many families in American Canyon are feeling uncertainty over the Trump administration’s new immigration policies, and the fear of deportations for unauthorized immigrants.

Mooiman acknowledged that issue is taking a toll on kids as well.

She said the district is working on two applications for grant funding to finance the new wellness center at ACHS.

They should know by August if they were successful in getting the money, said Mooiman.