Student and faculty volunteers assembled at the Arch courtyard this Wednesday afternoon to host the Ramapo Wellness Coalition’s third-annual “Spring into Wellness” celebration. The College radio station WRPR DJed the event, which featured a bicycle-powered smoothie blender, a meditative “labyrinth walk” and other activities promoting mental and physical wellbeing on campus.
Abbe Benowitz, the disability counselor at Ramapo’s Office of Specialized Services, is a founder of the Wellness Coalition. She answered questions while screen-printing t-shirts at a table near the Arch. The coalition is made up of Ramapo staff and faculty members, according to Benowitz.
“It’s just something we do in our spare time,” she said modestly while completing a t-shirt freshly emblazoned with the coalition’s slogan, “Be Well.”
Benowitz may be guilty of underselling her organization’s impact on campus. The coalition was originally dubbed “Stigma-Free Campus,” and it worked to eliminate stigma associated with mental illnesses. The group reached its high-water mark in Sept. 2016, when former New Jersey governor Richard Codey declared the College a “stigma-free campus” at a special ceremony held before the Arch.
Afterward, Benowitz and her colleagues renamed their group to reflect a broader, more general focus on students’ overall wellbeing. The change in agenda attracted more volunteers, according to Benowitz. The Wellness Coalition grew in size and was recognized by Ramapo in 2018. The coalition gained an official committee and the organization now receives an annual budget through the College.
The Potter Library, Public Safety and the Krame Center were among the organizations present at Spring into Wellness. The Center for Reading and Writing’s reading specialist Susan Auger, who is an active member of the Wellness Coalition, welcomed attendees to the event and handed out small “wellness kits” with candy, stress balls and motivational messages.
Student volunteers for the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) handed out fliers and magnets while discussing the prevention of sexual assault through bystander intervention.
“In our case, ‘wellness’ refers to the wellbeing of others,” Jeffrey Toth, a third-year student and volunteer, said.
“April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” second-year student Brianna Douglas, another member of OVP, said. “It’s important to educate students in their roles as bystanders.”
Sodexo was present as well. Dining services’ Puneet Sethi, RD assembled healthy smoothie ingredients and invited attendees to hop onto a stationary bicycle equipped with a blender above the rear tire. Laughing students pedaled hard to blend their own ice-cold smoothies under the warm midday sun.
“The Wellness Coalition promotes wellness activities and reminders,” Auger said, referencing the initiatives and events held by the group throughout the school year. She stressed the coalition’s dedication to all aspects of personal wellness, growth and health. “We want to people to take care of themselves academically, physically, mindfully and financially.”
Benowitz is proud of her fellow volunteers.
“The members of the coalition are some of the best people I have ever known,” she said. “They are just incredible, inspiring people and I love being able to spend time with them in this way.”
Benowitz is also proud of this year’s Spring into Wellness.
“It was perfect weather and the students had a great time,” she said. “We always receive such great feedback: Things like ‘this made my day,’ ‘I love this event’ and ‘thank you for doing this.’”