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Beyond Academics: Prioritizing Student Well-Being at Flintridge Prep

Ann Vradenburg is the director of counseling and student support at Flintridge Prep. In this role, Ann leads the Center for Student Support & Well-Being along with Kiara Best, school counselor, and Barrett Jamison, assistant head for student life. She is a licensed speech pathologist and certified ADHD coach. Prior to joining the team at Flintridge Prep in 2021, Ann was the coordinator of academics and student services at Mayfield Junior School for 17 years. She has also been in private practice for 25 years. We spoke to Ann about her vision for the program and how improved space enhances student support and well-being.

Ann Vradenburg shares a laugh with a student in her office

Who benefits from the Center for Student Support & Well-Being at Flintridge Prep?

Every student can benefit from support space, so we don’t just assist those with specialized diagnoses or formal identification. We are here for every student on campus.

What types of challenges do students face?

Students juggle all kinds of stress (at home, in the classroom, on the stage, the athletic field), and we are working to help students develop resiliency so they can continue to work hard without feeling overwhelmed. We offer many opportunities here, and students want to work at a high level at everything. It’s our job to help students look realistically at their goals and make progress toward them. My passion is to make sure students feel cared for and empowered. My hope is to get students to be a little bit more mindful of how they react to things and how to calm down when they are struggling. Students who feel more relaxed are more successful and less stressed.

What happens when students visit the Center for Student Support & Well-Being?

We’re a hub of activity all day long. We have a space so they can get work done or have quiet time for themselves or with friends. It’s a study space, it’s a lounge, it’s a lunch space, it’s whatever they need. We’ve tried to create an environment where students can hang out and grab a cup of tea. A lot of times that’s all they need to bring their stress level down. We’re hoping to expand so we have more space for more students.

What’s the value in this space for students? How can it promote student well-being?

If students interact with the Center for Student Support & Well-Being team as part of their everyday life, then they will seek us out when they need us the most. We try to immerse ourselves in their community. It’s not my community, it’s their community. Students outnumber faculty and staff five to one, so it’s just a matter of letting them know that we’re here for them. Our availability and engagement in their community reminds students that we’re a fun group of people who care.

What do you need to create that environment?

We are definitely outgrowing our space, so we need to reconfigure and have more accessible space for more students—both in the Center for Student Support & Well-Being and in other learning support spaces, such as the library. In the future, I would hope the upper level of the library will be redesigned with collaboration and diverse learning needs at the center.

What would you like to change programmatically in the future?

I would love our focus to be on wellness—through formal activities like yoga or mindfulness training or informal activities like providing a self-care break area or healthy snacks during AP exams or midterms. We need to model self-care and preservation here at Flintridge Prep so that when students graduate, they are equipped to deal with the daily challenges they will face as adults.