Behavioral Health

Rebecka (Becky) Apolinario ‘11 is using her expertise to help students manage the stressors of the work study and academic programs through the lab day of ICA Cristo Rey’s PE & Wellness course, Emotional Intelligence. The course also includes a day of classwork led by alumnae Ariana Chacon ‘15 and Amaro Rivera ‘15.


After majoring in Health Science and minoring in Psychology at Dominican University, Becky went on to complete a dual Masters in Public Health and Behavioral Health (also at Dominican University) and is currently working at the Institute on Aging as a Senior Program Director. Through it all Becky has remained connected to ICA Cristo Rey. While at ICA Cristo Rey Becky played sports, and so was on the radar of our Athletic Director and Wellness Program Coordinator, Carolyn Sideco, who asked her to help with the Emotional Intelligence course.


“I was very excited to do this. I remembered from my own experience as a student how work and school could be a lot to manage. [ICA Cristo Rey joined the Network in Becky’s Junior year.] And then watching my younger sister, and now my niece, I knew there was a lot in the way of skills that could be shared with students. So when Coach [Sideco] asked me to help and teach a lab/skills portion for the Emotional Intelligence class I jumped at it, ” said Becky.


Becky is looking forward to the culminating Personal Improvement Project (PIP) at the end of the semester-long course. When it was introduced she heard some (probably overly) ambitious plans, including dramatic weight-loss plans. But Ms. Apolinario stepped in: “That’s not the point of this, if you want to be social change in your community. You have to do baby steps.”


Those baby steps are guided through a four-week process leading up to the PIP. She offered the tool Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle. “These are the smaller behavior changes leading to a bigger behavior change. I want to help the students develop skills so they can see how a change in behavior can help them get through the stressors of school and work, and today we’re talking about nutrition and how it impacts stress.Those hot cheetos, ice cream, soda, caffeine are not really helpful.”


Each week a student presents a personal care activity too. The activity needs to touch on at least one of the areas of health (emotional, physical, mental, environment, etc.). “We’re just a few weeks in but these have gone really well; the girls I hadn’t been expecting to enjoy it were really tuned-in to the presentations. An upcoming personal-care activity is a student sharing how to create a personalized playlist on Spotify.” Becky went on to say, “Everything we do could have a self-care aspect. We just need to pull it out. 


“I want the current Spartans to learn that when they’re at work and school, it's important to have their own voice to learning how to step back and take care of themselves and say “no” when appropriate, or a “no for now”