New East Annex Focusing on Wellness


Elsa Dunn, Editor

As mental health awareness spreads globally, many high schools have been incorporating spaces where students feel emotionally supported. With the East Annex opening in mid-October, many questions have been circulating around campus about the logistics of the space, and how it can benefit students. 

The East Annex is said to be a space designed solely for the support of students; the name EAST  is an acronym for Emotional And Social Teens and Annex means an extended piece of. The space’s facilitator is Amber Yang, who works on campus as a Restorative Justice Specialist as well.

Yang described her vision for the East Annex.

“My role is part of a larger effort at Novato High School; to shift the school culture to be based off of belonging and wellness, and to invest in the deeper work of community,” Yang said. “When I think of the East Annex I think of a place where students can gather and support one another and bring aspects of life and well being that schools usually don’t bring in.”

Yang expanded on the details of the use of the space. 

“There are going to be workshops here, based off of stress management and relaxation and yoga and meditation classes. I’m thinking about how we can build community and build the power of social support here,” Yang said. “So my role here is really about creating that space for students to find their voice. (The) East Annex was built and created by students, so it’s really for the youth by the youth, with some adult facilitation.”

Along with the help of students, Yang and Novato High Assistant Principal Michelle Cortez have assisted in the development of the center.

Cortez elaborated on the details for the space.

“I don’t believe in talking about the East Annex by itself, I believe talking about a wellness campus with a dedicated East Annex,” said Cortez. “My vision is one that is based off of research; a room doesn’t solve anything, all of us have to think differently on how we hold safe places. As a school we have been adopting wellness campus types of slogans. The East Annex is a dedicated place where some of these activities can happen but it shouldn’t be divorced from the whole campus. At the end of the day, you all (students) understand each other and what you all are going through better than adults do. Adults aren’t the answer to everything. Adults need to empower students to be the answer to support each other.”

Scheduled appointments with behavioral health counselors will take place at the East Annex, as well as group therapy sessions among students. If one is in a crisis at school, the first step would be to go to the counseling office. There, direction will be given to the student on their next step. As of now, direct walk-ins are not being offered. 

All in all, the East Annex is a work in progress, with great potential for being something that can cater to every student. Every day, facilitators of the space are learning new ways on how to properly carry out the vision of the space and thinking of new creative strategies for it to be helpful.