Amber Yang is a woman on a mission. An Oakland native, Amber received her bachelor’s at San Francisco State in psychology with a minor in holistic health studies and conflict resolution practices, and just finished her master’s in organizational change and leadership. This is her third year as the Restorative Practice and Wellness Coordinator in the East Annex.
Before working at Novato High, Amber was interested in pursuing a career in music therapy, but through working in the San Francisco School District as a trauma specialist, she had a change of heart.
“I became passionate about helping youth feel a sense of belonging and safety in their school environment,” said Yang.
The East Annex is a space where all students are welcome to come if they need. In the East Annex, Amber works with students through restorative justice practices to create a greater sense of safety, community, and belonging for them on campus. Through mentoring students, leading conflict resolution circles, where students address harms and work to rebuild community and relationships with their fellow classmates, and constantly working to make the East Annex as welcoming a place as possible for students, Amber has been able to display her extreme dedication.
“Helping kids develop the skills that they need to become productive human beings and navigate hard situations,” Amber said, when asked about her goals.
Izayah Spencer, a junior at Novato High says that he likes the East Annex because “it’s open to all students and it’s where you can meet a lot of different types of people.”
Every fourth period, students are shown short videos, where Amber talks directly to the camera about various aspects of wellness. In these videos, she covers stress, anxiety, depression, and other difficulties. Initially, the fourth-period videos started as a Covid-19 project so that she could connect with students while they weren’t in the classroom. Now they are implemented into the everyday lives of students, promoting the idea that wellness happens everywhere on campus, not just the East Annex. The goal of these videos is to provide relatable conversations around mental health and overall health to every student on campus. None of what Amber says in these videos comes from a textbook or video; they are just her own life experiences and professional insight to connect with students.
In the coming year, the East Annex staff and Amber plan to continue to work to make the East Annex the most welcoming and inclusive place possible. In addition, Amber hopes to renovate the hallway for students to create a more comfortable environment for students who are struggling or just need a quiet place to sit. She is also working to implement office hour workshops around meditation, relaxation, health, and navigating social relationships on campus. Finally, Jason Newman in the East Annex plans to start running small therapy groups so that students have the opportunity to talk with other students about shared experiences.
These expansions will allow Amber and staff to help all NHS students develop the tools they need to navigate difficult situations and thrive as young adults.