At a recent quarterly meeting of our local church leaders and school district leaders, I took some time to explain to the newer folks in the room about the people and systems we have in place to support our students with social, emotional, mental health, family and relationship challenges.
One of the church representatives jumped in to share about how she had encouraged a parent this fall to contact the school regarding her child’s struggles with anxiety and mental health. She was sharing this to celebrate the good work of our student support team and how the child is now doing much better due to the caring folks that have wrapped around him.
As she challenged everyone to encourage parents to reach out to the schools to make sure we’re working as a student-parent-school-faith community team, another person in the room asked if we could share about our support teams in the Echo Journal to reach a broader audience. What a good idea!
While schools have long had guidance counselors, the number of counselors and the scope of their work has evolved from 20 to 30 years ago. Counselors serve as the backbone of our student support teams helping to coordinate each student’s learning plan.
The position has evolved over time - largely due to fewer counselors per student across the state than in years past - to focus more purposefully on post high school plans, helping students navigate their academic journey, and working with parents, career advisers and post-high school institutions to help students achieve their dreams after they leave us.
They are often the first to be called when students are struggling, and in Pequot Lakes Schools, they often tap another member of the team for help, depending on the issues.
Schools in Crow Wing County are blessed to have the support of Family Services Collaborative Workers, and we also have a school social worker at Eagle View Elementary School. Collaborative workers and our social worker work closely with students and families to address social skills, emotional struggles, dealing with conflict, food scarcity, truancy, hygiene, chemical abuse, less severe mental health issues, and navigating tragedies.
They are often the connector for students and families to other services provided by nonprofits, Crow Wing County, the faith community or to other social service programs.
Pequot Lakes Schools also collaborates with Northern Pines Mental Health Center and hosts a team right in our schools to provide students with onsite access to mental health therapy and licensed counseling. These highly qualified professionals work with groups of students, provide individual therapy as needed, consult with staff, provide training and serve as an immediate response team when mental health evaluations are necessary.
Most of their services are funded through third-party billing, demonstrating how intertwined education services can be with health care services to ensure students are successful.
Finally, on the front lines everyday are our outstanding teachers and staff led by our school principals. They work as teams to ensure each student has a positive relationship with some adults and to connect students to the folks previously mentioned as needed. This work is done purposefully and systematically, demonstrating great care for the students we serve.
Patriot students and families are fortunate to be supported by effective and caring student support teams that function as a purposeful system. If you know of a student that is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the appropriate school office to make sure we can connect them to the support needed.
Every student matters to us, and it takes all of us to ensure our students reach their dreams. Go Patriots!