SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — Walking through the halls of Seneca Falls Middle School brings back memories for Kevin Korzeniowski.
“We won the state championship in high school and they said just walk natural with their cameras," said Korzeniowski.
He grew up in the Seneca Falls school district, first as a student, then as a coach.
“Our coaches are at the forefront of the students' lives and they hear more than our teachers do," said Korzeniowski.
Which is why he wants to make them coaches of something else. Now as the district’s athletic director, he wants to make mental health a priority.
Thanks to a new grant, Korzeniowski is making sure every coach in the district receives training to spot warning signs.
“They talk about the issues that kids have. And a lot of those issues are the same in the classroom as they are on the athletic field," said Korzeniowski. “If you look through the training, there's athletes, professional athletes that have the same issues that our high school athletes have."
Community has always been important to Reverend Leah Ntuala at the First Presbyterian Church. That’s why she’s behind the push for mental health training in the school district.
"Mental health is a huge issue,” Ntuala said. “It's a huge issue in Seneca County. Seneca County has one of the highest suicidal rates in the state of New York.”
Ntuala applied for a $10,000 grant that will fund the training for coaches. The idea came after watching her son’s soccer team.
“What I realize in my short interaction with my son's coach was that coaches interact with such a varied student body population, right?" said Ntuala. "Whatever their interest is, that's who plays. But they also are interacting with the families. And so they may see things that students don't see."
Coaches will complete two different mental health training programs — Trauma 101 and Mental Health First Aid.
The goal is to have them completed before spring sports begin.