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$300K grant funds Crook County school counselors


Better Together Central Oregon announced this week it has received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the newly launched, national Every School Healthy Campaign that is being used to fund two new counselors in the Crook County School District and to train district staff to better help students who have experienced trauma.

Led by America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth, the campaign strives to raise awareness of the integral connection between education and health and make healthy schools the norm across the United States.

The campaign is investing a total of $1.8 million in six communities to lay the groundwork for a national campaign. Better Together is one of the six sites that was selected through a competitive process from a pool that included more than 145 communities in 20 priority states.

“Crook County School District has long prioritized healthy schools, and this funding is an important step in an effort to bolster that work in Prineville and across the region. It demonstrates the strength we have in partnering across sectors to enhance systems that support our students.” said Katie Condit, Better Together’s executive director..

The funding for this partnership is designed to directly increase mental health support in Crook County Schools. Additionally, through the regional TRACEs (Trauma, Resilience, and Adverse Childhood Experiences) movement, it will support the training of dozens of teachers and school staff in trauma-informed practices to enhance a culture of care in the school district, the organization said.

“TRACEs is committed to supporting within the school and throughout the community to ensure that every individual in Crook County has the strengths, social supports and resources they need to thrive,” said Katie McClure, director of the regional TRACEs movement.

The national Every School Healthy Campaign envisions a healthy school as one where students feel safe, supported, and empowered. Recognizing that exercise and nutrition are critical components of healthy schools, the campaign will look to also account for social, emotional, physical, and mental health.

The social emotional needs of youth have emerged as an identifiable barrier to academic success, officials said. Meeting young people where they are on their social and emotional health is becoming a prerequisite to achieving the academic success expected of schools.

Collaboration is key to doing this well, this week’s announcement said, adding, “The Crook County community has a history of strong partnerships that will serve as the foundation for this work, and youth voice will be a critical driver in design and implementation.”

“We are grateful to have been recognized by America’s Promise Alliance for our commitment to Healthy Schools. This funding is a game-changer for the support we provide in our district. It is a great example of the power of partnerships for students,” said Dr. Sara Johnson, Crook County schools superintendent.

This effort is based in a strong partnership between Better Together, Crook County School District, TRACEs, Mosaic Medical, the Central Oregon Health Council, Crook County Health Department, Crook County on the Move, Lutheran Family Services and St. Charles Health System. Through this award, partners will participate in a national cohort of communities implementing evidence-based practices to ensure whole-child health.

“The research is overwhelming on the connections between health, education, and youth development,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance. “By paying close attention to students’ social and emotional well-being in addition to their physical well-being, schools will see the better educational outcomes they seek and prepare students to lead longer, more fulfilling lives.”

Not all children have an equal chance to feel safe and lead healthy lives. The Center for Promise, America’s Promise research institute, documented this inequity in their youth-led Barriers to Wellness report, which found that youth of color in particular are at increased risk for poor health outcomes due to a lack of access to the social supports, opportunities, and experiences essential for healthy development.

Gomperts added, “The Every School Healthy campaign is founded on the belief that every young person deserves safe and healthy places to learn and grow and the recognition that too many young people don’t have access to that opportunity. Every student deserves a healthy school and a chance to succeed in life.”

Support from community partners is crucial, as educators are under increasing stress. In their recent publication, Creating Policies to Support Healthy Schools, the nonprofit research organization and America’s Promise partner Child Trends found stress and anxiety experienced by teachers can trickle down to their students.

Both policymakers and educators said teachers need more professional development and support to fully address the breadth and depth of student needs. America’s Promise Alliance is leading the Every School Healthy campaign in partnership with ChildObesity180, Communities In Schools, FoodCorps, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and Turnaround for Children.

The Every School Healthy campaign is a part of Together for Healthy and Successful Schools, a collaborative initiative working to advance the vision that all schools support education and health. Together for Healthy and Successful Schools is comprised of America’s Promise Alliance, Child Trends, and Healthy Equity Works at Washington University in St. Louis, and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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