With the start of a new school year, Community Schools hosted the inaugural, bi-annual Community and Schools Together Event. Nearly 100 educators and community partners came together on September 30th to teach, learn and collaborate with one another. The region collectively chose to focus on advancing mental health and wellness at this event. This came as no surprise, considering that 46% of children experience at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) and approximately 20% of adolescents have diagnosable mental health disorders. School and community partnerships are key to the growth and development of policies, procedures and best practices for mental health.
Dr. Liz Anderson of Binghamton University’s NYS Community Schools Technical Assistance Center welcomed the group and set the stage for the day. She discussed school and community collaboration, and reminded us that collaboration challenging, yet rewarding. “When we collaborate, we know that our strengths will be maximized, our weaknesses will be minimized and the result will be better for families, schools and communities,” said Anderson. The relationship between a community and a school is reciprocal in nature. Communities provide schools with a context and an environment that can reinforce the values, culture and learning. In addition, communities can also expand the variety of opportunities and supports available to students and families. In return, schools offer the community an enduring public institution that often serves as the “hub” of the community, especially within our rural region.
This event truly reflected the four pillars of the community schools strategy, which include, expanded learning opportunities, collaborative leadership and practices, family and community engagement, as well as, integrated student supports. A combined total of twelve breakout sessions took place throughout the day, and were facilitated by school leaders and representatives as well as community agency representatives. Sessions covered things such as family engagement, community trauma coalition, probation services and new legislation, model mentoring programs, addressing traumatic stress with restorative practices, school resource officer support, utilizing the community schools strategy in rural context, health services in school settings and substance abuse prevention and intervention services for schools.
As we move forward to begin planning the next CST event, to be held on March 23rd, we welcome schools and community partners to participate in the planning process. Our goal is to build upon the collaborative spirit that was developed during the inaugural event and increase the outcomes for our region.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools