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Mental health, well-being panel ‘inspires’ students, panelists share insight about careers

Photo credit: Oona Seppala
Founder of cookie dough company Sweet Loren’s Loren Castle, body acceptance coach Debbie Saroufim, Archer alumna, psychologist and life coach for girls Olivia Tiffany (’09) and Shanthi Seth (’27) smile as the audience asks questions at the end of a panel on mental health and well-being. The panel was mandatory for upper school students and took place Monday, Oct. 16.

From a cookie dough entrepreneur to a body acceptance coach, three panelists with careers in mental health and well-being joined moderators Shanthi Seth (’27) and Sophie Cousens (’27) on stage to answer questions, give advice to students and share personal anecdotes from their careers.

The panel took place Monday, Oct. 16, in the Zeller Student Center. Panelists were founder of cookie dough company Sweet Loren’s Loren Castle, body acceptance coach Debbie Saroufim and Archer alumna, psychologist and life coach for girls Olivia Tiffany (’09).

Castle began her brand after overcoming cancer when she was finishing college. She said she wanted to create a brand where people could enjoy their favorite sweet treats while being mindful of their health. Sylvie Hacker (’26) said she has always been interested in mental health and found the panel, specifically Castle’s business journey, “inspiring.”

“Loren specifically interests me because I am inspired by her entrepreneurial success. I loved getting to see the different types of careers in mental health,” Hacker said. “The biggest takeaway was that there are so many ways to incorporate your life experiences in your career — how to take your life lessons and benefit others.”

Sophie Cousens (’27) introduces Loren Castle. Castle’s brand, Sweet Loren’s, sells cookie dough that is entirely plant-based, gluten-free and dairy-free. (Photo credit: Oona Seppala)

Because of the range of occupations on the panel, the panelists also touched on connection between mental wellness and physical wellness, the importance of community and how to handle mistakes and setbacks.

From sixth to 12th grade, all students are required to take a fitness class until 11th grade and Human Development for the entirety of their time at Archer. Ninth grade Dean of Culture, Community, and Belonging Stephanie Ferri attended the panel and said the ideas discussed resonated with her. She said she plans to incorporate some of the topics into Archer’s Human Development curriculum.

“Often we, as humans, sacrifice ourselves and our own truth and our authenticity to fit in … and then that in itself can take a toll on our well-being,” Ferri said. “That idea is really complex and it made me think a lot about how we might unpack that further in HD. It gave me a lot of ideas. And especially as dean this year, talking about belonging and purpose, I think that authenticity and attachment really tie into that.”

Some themes from the panel were the importance of authenticity and avoiding comparison. Saroufim shared how her mother put her on her first diet at the age of 6. She said her mother’s influence programmed her to have a very specific idea of what a “good body” looked like, comparing herself to other female figures around her. She said it took her years of therapy before she realized that her body was healthy and before she “made peace with her body.” She now helps others do the same and shared a piece of advice with the audience.

“Buy pants in your size, not the size you want to be in,” Saroufim said.

Tiffany is currently working towards obtaining her license to be a psychologist. During her training, she said she observed girls sacrificing their authenticity to fit in and form unhealthy friendships. She works on helping girls love themselves as they are, without feeling pressure to change in order to fit in.

She said she recently reflected on her time at Archer and she said she did not realize how impactful her time spent here was on her career until she began working with teenage girls. Now, she said she is seeing it come “full circle.”

“I’m interested in in bringing girls together [because] we thrive when we are united,” Tiffany said, “We need to learn to love all parts of ourselves.”

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About the Contributor
Oona Seppala
Oona Seppala, Senior Reporter
Oona Seppala joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She plays on the varsity tennis team, is a member of Archer's a cappella group, is on the Honor Education Council and Service Squad. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, reading, and playing instruments.

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