Essex Tech Receives Grant to Support Students’ Mental Health Needs

Wednesday February 02, 2022

HATHORNE – Essex Tech has been awarded a $350,000 grant from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education increase its efforts to ensure the safety, mental health, and well-being of students, including creating an inclusive learning environment for all students.

The grant will allow the District to pursue new partnerships, add programming, and reestablish programs that were interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the District’s wide-ranging efforts:

• Healthy relationships

The District will resume outside partnerships, creating programs to prepare student leaders to promote healthy relationships and to raise awareness of relationship violence. The District also hopes to train student leaders and mentors, creating a program to encourage students who may be in abusive relationships to seek school-based support.

• Support through adventure-based learning

The District intends to partner with outside groups that will provide experiential education for students, their families and caregivers, and District staff. Programming will include after-school groups focusing on students’ social-emotional well-being, evening group sessions for families and caregivers, and support sessions for educators. The District also will pursue group behavioral health counseling, especially for those who may face barriers such as transportation or insurance.

• Family Speaker Series

The District will expand its popular Speaker Series, delivering timely and relevant information to families/caregivers and community members. Themes will include teen substance use; healthy relationships and peer connections; kindness, equity and inclusion; teen behavior; and social-emotional-development

The District also intends to hire a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to consult with the District and assist school personnel and families in understanding and evaluating students’ issues.

Essex Tech has undertaken numerous initiatives in recent years to address students’ social-emotional needs, and their behavioral and mental health and wellness. By collecting student data on a single dashboard. District leaders are better able to assess and address issues quickly and develop supports that are research-based and give students an opportunity to receive those supports during the school day.

The District also has begun working with Culture 7 Coaching for support and guidance in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Michael Eatman of Culture 7 works with administration, faculty and all District staff to reflect upon and assess equity and inclusion topics, concerns, and needs. Eatman meets with the District’s Equity Team to develop its strategic plan. Eatman also will work with students to engage in school-based concerns including race, culture, and other issues related to equity.

“As educators we see how the challenges of school and life affect our students every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those challenges both here and at home,” Superintendent Heidi Riccio said. “This grant will allow students to continue their education in a safe environment while providing much-needed support to our staff and ensure that our decisions are guided by the best practices in equity and inclusion.”

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