Utica schools’ wellness podcast benefits students, parents – The Macomb Daily

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Catherine Livingston is the mother of two grown children and a counselor at Henry Ford II High School. Having been through the tough years that coincide with adolescence into being a teen and being a high school counselor, she can totally relate to the concerns facing parents today.
It also makes her a great podcast host.
“If I walk into my daughter’s room and I smell cherries, should I be concerned,” Livingston said, during an interview for Utica Community Schools Wellness Podcast with Corey Beckwith, a public health coordinator for ACCESS, an Arab-American nonprofit group that serves as a strong advocate for cultural and social entrepreneurship imbued with the values of community service, healthy lifestyles, education and philanthropy.
Beckwith is also a social worker, certified prevention consultant/specialist and former co-chair of the Michigan Prevention Association, a statewide organization comprised of alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention professionals and volunteers.
The topic of discussion on a recent edition was vaping and what parents need to know.
As Beckwith explained during the podcast when it comes to vaping, much of the lure for young people is flavor. E-cigarettes, as the cool version of the old cigarette is called, are offered in attractive smells and tastes. Fruit, mint, candy and dessert flavors are the favorites, and studies suggest they ignite the desire to vape. These were all banned two-years ago, but they’re still around along with other products related to vaping such as flavored nicotine pouches.
The cherry scent could also be a candle burning in the child’s room. Either way, Beckwith advised Livingston, who asked the question on behalf of parents, to talk to her daughter about it.
“And I would recommend sooner rather than later,” Beckwith added, during the interview that covered a variety of ground in 20 minutes.
Now the podcast and all of the information given about the topic including resources for parents such as helpful websites and organizations that can help youth addictions will be available for parents on Utica Community Schools Wellness’ website, UticaK12.org/UCS_Wellness. The informational website was launched by the district during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic started we knew we had to connect with families differently,” Livingston said.
However, with parents and students at home, schools needed another way to provide families with access to information related to school and the pandemic but also the physical, mental and social-emotional needs of UCS families.
The creation of UCS Wellness allowed the schools to share a diverse catalog of resources including a virtual calming room for anyone experiencing stress as well as wellness support guides designed for students and parents.
Its success led the district to expand the toolbox for parents.
“We wanted to be able to attract our families to these resources and other information and thought about the best way to do that,” Livingston said. “Podcasts are the number one thing now. They’re short and simple. It’s one topic and it’s only an hour long.”
It’s also conversational.
“So you’re not just being told something. Our team does a nice job of personalizing the topic,’ said Kim Charland, executive director of secondary curriculum and programs for UCS and among those who helped to launch the new podcast series.
So far, three podcasts have been recorded. Each one will be released on UticaK12.org/UCS_Wellness on the third Wednesday of each month throughout the school year. Other hosts throughout the series will include counselors, Kim Twarowski and April Raupp.
It’s success has also prompted outside interests including the Waterford School District in Oakland County, which has launched its own podcast series.
“The pandemic and recent school tragedies have emphasized the importance of mental wellness for our students, staff and families, and the UCS Wellness Podcast is providing another resource to help our community focus on their health and well-being,” said Utica Community Schools Superintendent Robert Monroe. “I am so proud of the initiative the UCS Wellness team has shown to expand this program in support of our community.”
Both Livingston and Charland, who do a lot of the brainstorming on topics to cover, hope to include students in the podcast produced and edited by Kevin Coppa, who has been involved in other audio and video productions supported by the district and its school board.
“It’s like a radio show, only you can listen at your leisure, like on the way to work,” Coppa said.
The topic of the inaugural episode is the importance of mental health. Livingston’s guest for this podcast was Nancy Buyle, who is the school safety and student assistance consultant for the Macomb Intermediate School District. She was pleased to learn about the podcast series.
“I’m so grateful to you for doing this,” she told her host. “I think this is wonderful information that everyone needs to learn about and I’m excited to be hearing about all the other podcasts you’ll be doing as well.”
In addition to UticaK12.org/UCS_Wellness listeners can also catch the podcast series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music by searching for UCS Wellness Podcast.
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