Magdalena Maguire joins Redwood at a time of heightened need for wellness expertise

Ella Kharrazi

At a time when student stress levels are at an all-time high due to the return to in-person learning, the Redwood Wellness Center plays a key role in supporting students through the transition. New Wellness Outreach Specialist, Magdalena Maguire, joined Redwood in late February at the peak of increased anxiety levels among students. Although she is adapting to a new environment at a time when her expertise is crucial, Maguire fulfills a significant role on the Wellness team, as someone who consistently works to combat student mental health issues with unique methods. 

Just one week before returning to in-person school, Maguire joined Redwood as a new Wellness Outreach Specialist.

Growing up in Marin, Maguire went to High School 1327 and was a part of the Team Program — a course for juniors in the Tam School District. Through Team, students go on backpacking trips, participate in community service and are exposed to local internship opportunities. After completing the program, Maguire continued her involvement for five years, guiding trips and engaging with various students, until the program was discontinued. She cites her passion for the outdoors as one of her inspirations for wellness.

“The wilderness was really helpful for me to grow up in. I learned a big sense of autonomy and self-reliance. That brought me to work in wilderness therapy, and I was a field guide for a while. This is when I found I loved working in mental health,” Maguire said. 

Maguire uses her experience in the wilderness to aid students in their struggles with wellness. Often, she recommends her favorite hiking trails and suggests that students take walks when feeling emotionally unstable. 

“For me, wilderness and spending time in nature is at the core of my wellness. Being outside resets your circadian rhythm and slows your breath. One of the best things you can do for anxiety is go outside and breathe some fresh air,” Maguire said. She anticipates leading activities in nature at Redwood to share her passion for outdoors with students.

“I hope we can eventually have some kind of nature or wellness lunch where we can go on a walk or meet after school to hike,” Maguire said. 

Sophie Zlatunich, a Redwood senior and Peer Resource student, works with the Wellness Center, giving presentations to various classes on mental health, stress and anxiety. Zlatunich also finds the idea of combining wellness with nature beneficial.

“I know being in nature helps me with my mental health. [Going on] hikes or even just walking around campus as a way of therapy or de-stressing sounds like a great idea,” Zlatunich said.

Despite Maguire arriving just one week before in-person learning began, Wellness Coordinator Jennifer Kenny-Baum already sees her methods making an impact and anticipates her improving the Wellness Center further as she settles in. During the pandemic, Maguire has been outside at most lunches, handing out different goods aimed at helping students through tough school days.

“We came up with these wellness-to-go options of little items. We had stress balls one week, journals another week and a coloring book and set of colored pencils the next. They are intended to [help students] find a way to de-stress, calm down or perform some sort of self-care,” Kenny-Baum said.

In addition to the goodie bags, Maguire passed out sleepy-time tea bags to students when Redwood moved to hybrid learning, anticipating that sleep schedules would be thrown off due to the change in routine. Zlatunich further noted the benefits of passing out items that focus on reminding students to take care of their mental health.

“If a student got a tea bag during break, then it would be a reminder to get back into a good sleep schedule,” Zlatunich said.

The Wellness Center has always been critical for student health — as school is inherently stressful for many — but now it plays an even more important role due to COVID-19, as emphasized by Maguire. 

“I think a lot of people are feeling really lonely, isolated, and disconnected from their communities [because of the pandemic]. This makes it harder to engage in activities such as classwork and discussions. The Wellness Center is more important now than it has ever been,” Maguire said. 

Maguire additionally consults with students if they want to come in and talk about whatever they may be battling. Maguire’s warm demeanor has already made a noticeable change to the Wellness Center environment, according to Kenny-Baum. 

“People want to be around her. Her way of talking to people feels really genuine and down to earth. I think what she really brings is a warmth that makes people connect, feel safe and feel like there’s someone who genuinely cares when they come in,” Kenny-Baum said.