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CVHS highlights mental health programs at campus fair
Isaiah Zepeda
Central Valley High School student Isaiah Zepeda is handed a prize by Student Support Specialist Jasmine “Jazzy” Bustillo during Thursday’s Mental Health Awareness Fair. Maninder Basra is in the background. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The mental health of students has been of particular concern for professionals within the education system for a myriad of reasons, especially since COVID and isolation stemming from government lockdowns. Ceres Unified School District has put resources in place to help combat problems before they worsen.

To that end Central Valley High School conducted a Mental Health Awareness Fair during the Thursday lunch hour. A number of agencies set up booths on the campus of 2,220 students to hand out information and make things fun with games and prizes.

One booth drew attention to the mental health club on campus, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which has 116 student members and five officers.

According to Claudia Martinez, one of three Student Support Specialists on campus, NAMI spreads mental health awareness on campus through weekly videos and positive affirmation.

“We have the programs now to benefit the students who are on campus,” said Martinez. “At Ceres Unified, we’re really fortunate to have this kind of support compared to like Modesto City Schools. Whenever I hearing my mom in what’s going on over there, it’s a completely different world.”

Maninder Basra, another Student Support Specialist, said the program is making a huge difference with some students.

“I’ve had kids who come in my office who are just not passing their classes, just not motivated to be at school and by having this program here  and working with them and talking to them it allows a lot of kids to turn around,” said Basra. 

The program involves short-term intervention/prevention services that involve seeing students from six to 12 weeks. If students aren’t making progress they are directed to school psychologists and mental health clinicians.

Ceres High School, with its 1,700 students, has the same program with three specialists. Elementary school and middle schools have one Student Support Specialist, whose position is basically a step below a counselor, said Martinez.

According to Jasmine “Jazzy” Bustillo, the third specialist at Central Valley, the event included giveaways for spinning a prize wheel, made possible by donations from Foster Freeze, Cold Stone, Mr. Taquitos, Mountain Mike’s and local candy shops.

Basra believes that pressures on students come from social media and the comparison games that that go on.

“Right now what I personally see, is a lot of people will see someone who is 22, 23 and they have like a Lamborghini. They see it on Instagram posted and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m about to be out of high school, why am I not successful yet?’

“My dad always used to say people want to be millionaires overnight but they don’t know that it’s a step process. I feel like nowadays social media portrays an image.” 

Other agencies which had booths at the fair were Youth Navigation Center of Stanislaus County, Golden Valley Health Center, Invest in Me of Modesto and Community Hospice which offers grief and other types of counseling.

Armando Guarjardo
Armando Guarjardo spins the wheel in front of CUSD staff member Nereida Hurtado at Central Valley High School’s Mental Health Fair held Thursday afternoon. - photo by Jeff Benziger