Victoria Salazar receives inaugural Brooke Zimmerman Wellness Center award

Julie Reichle

PUSD Health Clerk Viki Salazar is the first recipient of the Brooke Zimmerman plaque

A crowd gathered in the PUSD Wellness Center on Thursday, May 30, to honor Viki Salazar, the inaugural recipient of the Brooke Zimmerman Award. Salazar, who greets and helps facilitate services for students at the Wellness Center, received the award for her outstanding service and contributions. 

Wellness Center co-founder and former PUSD teacher Brooke Zimmerman, who started the center over 16 years ago with the help of a small committee, attended the event along with her granddaughter Havia Leonard, a seventh grader at Piedmont Middle School. 

“Sixteen years ago, we received Piedmont’s California Healthy Kids survey results for the year,” Zimmerman said. “They showed that Piedmont student’s levels of stress and anxiety were off the charts. The Wellness Center came from those results because we wanted to give those students the resources they needed.” The new Wellness Center quickly became a safe space where students regularly came to access support.

Assistant principal Joseph Marik gave an overview of the support that the Wellness Center has provided students during the current 2023-24 school year. The Wellness Center received referrals for over 150 students who received regular mental health support. The center also provided 2,000 hours of therapy for other students who needed short-term assistance, and delivered hundreds of hours of support during student drop-ins. 

Wellness Center Support Committee chair Neha Gupta also spoke about the financial support needed to continue providing the current level of services to Piedmont students. The Wellness Center runs on a minimal budget, but still must raise at least $50,000 from the Piedmont community to provide the same amount of student support during the 2024-2025 school year.

Center co-director Sari Sanghvi read a series of unsigned “appreciations” about Salazar, part of a longstanding tradition for Wellness Center staff to share what they appreciate about their co-workers anonymously. Salazar’s appreciations demonstrated her deep commitment to Piedmont’s students and the Wellness Center. “Your care for the students is so evident,” said one co-worker. “You hold the Wellness Center together and show up with so much care and thoughtfulness,” said another. “You are the glue that holds us all together. We so appreciate all that you do each day to make sure things run smoothly here at the Wellness Center, for students and staff alike. We couldn’t do it all without you.”

The work that Salazar and others do for the PUSD Wellness Center is the foundation for the vital role that the center plays in providing mental health support for Piedmont’s students. “This is such an important resource for our students,” assistant principal Joe Marik said. “Learning doesn’t happen if a student is not emotionally well.”

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