May Community Spirit Article

Hope for Tomorrow Grants

For the past three school years, our school counselors have been successful in writing a DPI School Based Mental Health grant to assist our students and families dealing with mental health issues and concerns. The first grant covered the 2018-19 school year and the district received $67,814. The second grant covered the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 school year and the district received $73, 293 for each of the two school years. Our counseling department is in the process of writing the third grant that will cover the 2021-22 and the 2022-23 school years. This grant proposal is seeking $75,000 in funding for each of the next two school years.
 
After receiving the first grant award, the first step in the process was to create the HOPE for Tomorrow program and contract with Compass Counseling to establish a school-based therapy office. This allows the therapist to collaborate with school staff, students and families in the school.
 
Why is this important now? Some students returning to in-person learning may be anxious about getting back into a routine and about what to expect in an altered classroom environment. Extra support to ensure positive emotional well-being for all students will be critical for successful school outcomes. Children in rural areas, low-income families and children with special needs have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Children already struggling with a mental health or family-related issue are also finding the pandemic especially challenging. 

One of our goals has been to break down barriers to mental health services. Partnering with Compass Counseling to provide a school-based therapy office has been a game changer for our district’s families, according to district counselors. A large portion of the grant money goes towards consultation hours. When a parent/guardian has signed the permission to obtain/release information form, we are able to consult with the therapist to provide the best wrap around services as possible. This connecting piece has been extremely valuable. The plan is to continue grant support of the consultation hours as they also continue to grow.  

We are seeking to increase funding to move from a half time to a full time Social Emotional Learning Integration Specialist (SEL) through this grant opportunity.  This also includes the development and implementation of a plan for staff professional development and evidence based SEL curriculum.  Our counselors continue to receive growing requests for referral packets, families are continuing to experience stress and anxiety related to the pandemic, and teen suicide related hospitalizations in our county are at a high.

The Hope for Tomorrow program initiative ties in with the TRSD Strategic Plan in the area of Social Emotional Supportive Environment Strategic Goal which states: The Tomorrow River School District will assure that young people have the support and resources of caring adults to attain a positive mental health mindset as well as character assets that will maximize their social and emotional potential. 

The following statement is from a teacher in the TRSD: The impact of the grant has been felt throughout the entire district.  From tangible changes, such as classroom seating/environment changes to less measurable (though arguably much more impactful) outcomes, every single teacher and student in this district have benefitted from the writing and implementation of the grant by our school counselors.  There has been a distinct change in the comfort of staff and students to discuss mental health combined with
access to resources and services in the building.  Our students (and ultimately our community/society) will benefit from these new tools for many years to come.  The implementation of the SEL standards have given teachers a framework for approaching classroom instruction and the SEL coordinator serves as a valuable resource.  I cannot stress enough the importance of this work and the tremendous effort our school counselors have put forth.  This district is a significantly better place for those efforts.

A huge thank you goes out to the Tomorrow River School District counseling department for taking the initiative in this area and fingers crossed that we receive a third round of funding for this Mental Health Grant!