De-Stress Fest gives students the resources to unwind just before finals


Therapy dog Rocket receives plenty of pets during De-Stress Fest on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the ASMC offices. This was Rocket's first day as a therapy dog according to owner Kim Ellis. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Justin Downes

The end of the semester can be a stressful time as finals approach. To help unwind the Associated Students of Moorpark College held De-Stress Fest from Dec. 2-5. Massages, snacks, stress balls, shaved ice and therapy dogs were available at no cost to students inside the Student Activities Office.

Director of Public Relations for the ASMC Jordan Ross, helped pass out coffee and donuts on Wednesday.

“Our goal is providing amenities to help people take a break from what’s on their mind,” Ross said.

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Rebecca Gabra embraces Squirrel, a therapy dog, during De-Stress Fest on Wednesday, Dec. 4 in the ASMC offices. De-Stress Fest offers students a chance to shake off some nerves before finals. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Students have responded well to the various activities brought out by ASMC. First year student Phoebe Ruiz Juarez works with the ASMC and helped coordinate the event.

“The ASMC started this event a couple of years ago and it’s become popular. We hold the De-Stress Fest right before finals when stress levels tend to be high,” Ruiz Juarez said.

Former Moorpark College student Kim Ellis works for Howlite Dog Training, a business to assist dog owners in learning to train their own dogs. She also works with Paws to Share, a program that brings therapy dogs directly to people.

On Wednesday Ellis brought Rocket, a two year old Australian Shepard, and Squirrel, a six year old long-haired Chihuahua to the Student Activities Center for students to sit and interact with.

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Dog trainer Kim Ellis gives a high five to therapy dog Squirrel in the ASMC offices on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Photo credit: Justin Downes

“I train dogs for everything from basic house-breaking, to more advanced trick training in dog shows,” Ellis said.

Student Marco Zavala heard about the therapy dogs through the Moorpark College Instagram account.

“I’m getting railed with finals coming up and needed a break. The dogs were a great diversion. It was really nice to be around them,” Zavala said.

Crystal Cassese was on campus Wednesday providing massages for students. Cassese is a fully-licensed physical therapist and Reiki specialist, a form of energy healing, and owns Warrior Woman Massage which visits client’s in their homes.

Cassese graduated from Moorpark College in 2013 and works with the Moorpark Kinesiology Department as a Fitness Specialist.

“Moorpark is my home town. It’s always great when the college invites me to come and give massages for the students,” expressed Cassese.

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The massages took place in a dimly lit Student Activities conference room with electric candles and calming music to set the mood. Many students requested neck, shoulder and back massages, where a lot of tension can be held due to anxiety, or bad posture after using computers and cell phones for extended periods of time.

Moorpark student Nikki Nejadrasool stepped out after her free 15 minute massage session smiling.

“That was great,”Nejadrasool said. “I feel so much more relaxed.”

If Moorpark’s De-Stress Fest was missed there are other ways to unwind, including consolidating tasks with a to-do list, mindful breathing to focus on each breath, un-clenching the jaw, loosening the neck and shoulders, listening to calming music and being in comfortable places and around familiar people.

De-Stress Fest is intended to help students just before finals but also to encourage healthy habits to reduce future stress.