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Formation of Self seminars set students up with empowering tools, tips and techniques

Mayfield Senior School’s innovative Formation of Self program gives students regular access to our expert FOS teaching team for the kind of practical and productive lessons that can make all the difference in high school and beyond.

The curriculum is customized to address common grade-level concerns. For some incoming ninth graders, FOS can help put the academic challenges of high school into a healthier perspective. “Since our first [FOS] class, I have learned that I need to have more of a growth mindset and a positive attitude towards things that are a little more challenging and to never give up,” explained Juliana  Boutros ’23.
By the time students are tackling their college applications, they’ve built a robust toolbox of strategies—both preventative and proactive—that empower them to take control of their intellectual, emotional and physical wellness.

“While we Mayfield students are encouraged to challenge ourselves, we are also supported by a community that stresses the importance of achieving balance, personal well-being, and growth,” said Melanie Ahn ’21.

As the first quarter comes to a close, let’s take a look at what students have been up to in their FOS seminars:

In the beginning 
“Our freshmen are embracing the move to high school with admirable inquisitiveness and courage,” said Ann Bussard, Mayfield’s Learning Specialist. It all starts with “mindset.” Ninth graders start by addressing the way they view their own aptitude for success. They begin to embrace the notion, popularized by psychologist and author Carol Dweck, that a person’s talents and abilities are not dictated by nature and can be developed through dedication and hard work. They are encouraged to approach their schoolwork with a willingness to sometimes stumble and fall. What helps build resilience, says our FOS team, is renewed effort, good strategies, and help. FOS has taught me that I have the ability to make learning positive through a growth mindset,” said Miranda Gallegos ’23. 

Freshmen also learned about the study methods, physical health habits and mental wellness techniques that will help them learn best. School Nurse Cathy Cota covered nutrition, sleep (8-10 hours every night) and staying home when sick. School Counselor Cristina Perez talked with students about adjusting to high school life and how to navigate the stress and excitement of their teenage years. She and some upper class students created a video explaining how freshman can seek the help they need. “Hearing from Ms. Perez and the students reassured me that, throughout my four years at Mayfield, I will always have people who will listen to me and do their best to help me,” said Citlali Ayala-Martinez ’23.

Thinking beyond the self
Each sophomore student began her second year of FOS by digging deep into the many aspects of her identity, using what are known as the “Big 8” identifiers—age, ability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation and socio-economic status/class. Students were prompted to articulate what makes these categories significant, and to identify the elements they might find difficult to talk about or feel compelled to leave at home when they come to school. In an anonymous survey, one student said she found this module particularly valuable: “I didn't realize how many components there were that made up your identity,” she said. Another sophomore said it helped boost her confidence, and “it also allowed me to learn about my classmates and what they value.” Next up? Learning to challenge their own implicit and unconscious biases. Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator Sarah Briuer Boland guided students through an audit of their personal networks and media consumption, a fascinating exercise that revealed their mirrors—similar identities and viewpoints to their own—and their windows into other identities. 

Finding peace and their place in the world
Juniors are bringing curiosity and enthusiasm to their seminars, Ms. Perez said. They’re learning about the neurological evidence behind their FOS mindfulness practice, and how it can promote healthy brain development, creativity and learning, and combat stress. “I learned that it is OK to stress and it is OK if some things do not work to relieve it, but that there are a million things out there to try too, many of which we have tried this year,” said Destressify Club co-founder Jolie Beegle ’21. Ms. Perez also opened a conversation with 11th graders on a range of important interpersonal concepts—including what constitutes a healthy relationship—that can strengthen each student’s sense of self, boost her compassion, improve her wellness and help her reach her goals. Plus, there’s vital college planning advice and expert preventive health tips! Ms. Maloney and Ms. Pieper delved into standardized testing and timelines for the college application process, while Nurse Cota taught students how to perform a self breast exam during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Courtney Gangi ‘21 came to this conclusion:“This course is extremely beneficial for young women in order to live the safest and most successful lives we can.” 

Plotting (and calendaring!) their course 
Mrs. Bussard helped the Class of 2020 kick off their college application season with time-tested deadline management advice. It’s working! Our college counselors, Ms. Maloney and Ms. Pieper, have noticed many girls are using Mrs. Bussard’s tips—including tracking their to-dos in Google Docs and on their calendar—to organize the upcoming raft of deadlines. This plan-to-succeed approach is helping our seniors stay focused as they prepare and submit applications, refine their essays, and create final college lists. Director of Campus Ministry Teri Gonzalez also helped students investigate sites for their capstone senior service project next May. “Having her come in and help us choose where we might want to volunteer was really helpful because it allowed us to sit down and make decisions rather than put it off until the last minute,” said Paloma Torres ’20. Organization is key during the senior year, and FOS is helping ensure that our girls are on top of their busy schedules.
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.