Island Health grant program fuels transformative wellness initiative at Ucluelet Secondary School

Ucluelet Secondary School (USS) is championing student mental health through its new initiative, Wellness Wednesdays. Supported by a $50,000 resilience and safety grant from Island Health, the school is introducing a range of engaging activities designed to enhance students' well-being.

At the heart of Wellness Wednesdays is Emily Collins, a dedicated mental health worker driven by the goal of integrating wellness into the school's culture.

"The premise was to center wellness within our school," said Collins, highlighting how the program, which started as a weekly event, has become a regular part of school life thanks to generous funding and community support. Collins's project benefits from Island Health's commitment to investing up to $1 million in grants specifically aimed at enhancing youth resilience and mental health.

Collins explained how financial support from Island Health has been instrumental, enabling the provision of snacks, materials, and honoraria for guest facilitators — all critical elements in bringing these wellness activities to life. Additionally, this support has allowed for the implementation of staff wellness initiatives, further embedding a culture of wellness throughout the entire school community. The program also collaborates with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Youth workers, who participate in each weekly event.

The initiative, born in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, addresses the various challenges young people face today, including pandemic-induced isolation, climate anxiety, and the digital era's complexities. By providing a diverse range of activities — from bracelet making and harm reduction workshops to engagements with the Coastal Queer Alliance — Wellness Wednesdays offer something for every student.


Photo: Supplies for the Wellness Kit Workshop


Photo: Edible Plants Workshop


Photo: Métis Beading Workshop

Iris Sylvester, a USS student, shared her thoughts on the impact of Wellness Wednesdays.

"It has improved the overall environment of the school and encouraged us to explore new and interesting opportunities," she said. "The free lunches offer a fun way to mingle and sometimes interact with people you never would have before."

When asked about the secret sauce to Wellness Wednesdays' success, Collins emphasized diversity, accessibility, and listening to the youths' own voices.

"We aim to make it pretty diverse, attracting different kids depending on the week's activity," she said, stressing the importance of tailoring programs to meet varied interests and needs.

"The success of Wellness Wednesdays stands as a powerful example of how local resources and community collaboration can lead to significant change, highlighting the transformative impact of financial support from organizations like Island Health," added Sarah Hagar, USS school counsellor.

Looking ahead, Wellness Wednesdays is on a positive path, not just boosting youth resilience but also creating a school culture where wellness is a key part of everyday life.

The Resilience and Safety Grants provide the opportunity for not-for-profit organizations, local government organizations, Indigenous Nations' communities, and for-profit businesses (in partnership with a non-profit) to apply for one-time funding to advance youth resilience. The Youth Grants encourage connection to culture, belonging to a family or community, connection to stable and supportive adults, and autonomy, competence and purpose. The latest round of grant recipients was announced April 4.

Learn more about the Resilience and Safety Grants.