Thursday, we told you about how community agencies located right on site at some Rochester City Schools are helping provide mental health services for children in need. In Part 2 of her story, Spectrum News reporter Cristina Domingues went to School No. 17 in Rochester to see what else the school and the district are doing to help kids and their families.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — When Mrs. Staub's class begins its day at Enrico Fermi School No. 17, students gather in a circle, talk about their feelings and identify agents of change.
Principal Caterina Leone-Mannino says all students start their days like this so that no matter what situation they might be coming from at home, they can take a moment here to calmly begin their day of learning.
"At least 90 percent of our population, has two or more ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, by the time they're entering school," said Leone-Mannino. "That could be everything from single parent household, living in poverty, incarcerated parent, death of a close immediate family member."
"We also recognized that when kids were coming in having been affected by trauma they would scoot right into fight or flight mode," Leone-Mannino said. "Meaning that was it, you either saw them running away from a situation or getting ready to fight whenever they were presented with a situation."
School No. 17 is in receivership so it is considered a struggling school, but the State Education Department says it has made a demonstrable improvement. School leaders say community partners have helped them do that.
The school was once considered persistently violent now has a cool down room, where students who act out in the classroom go to take a break with a school staff member. Hillside Children's Center has a satellite clinic there, where a counselor meets with students during the school day. Pathways to Peace, the Center for Youth, The Ghandi Institute for Non Violence and Ibero are also on site. This has become a community school, addressing many of the students' needs for mental health.
When asked if every child in this school who needs mental help, can get it, the principal Leone-Mannino said, "With willing family members, yes."
For a young student to get clinical help, a family member has to give consent, and the district says families need to be partners to advocate for their children.
"We need them to work along with us to be share information with us, to be a part of that counseling service when it's appropriate for a parent to join in that session," said Ruth Turner, RCSD Support Services executive director. "They're a very critical part of that treatment plan."
The District says every school has a mental health counselor, and more than half also have outside agencies providing counseling. There are plans to expand. Everyone agrees, to address the large and growing mental health needs of all the students in the district, it will take a community response.
"Our vision here is to be a hub, a beacon in a community, the center of an urban village," Leone-Mannino said. "The center of an urban village. So because we have access to families, we have that trusting relationship already, being able to guide them to the appropriate community partner a make that connection so they can get the services they need."