Editor’s note: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). This story is part of a series of articles highlighting the programs funded, at least in part, with those grants.
School districts continue to face increasingly complex social and emotional situations with students, and El Dorado has decided to take a proactive approach to preparing students and teachers to handle those situations.
The district received a $10,100 SHARE Foundation VIP grant to purchase Kognito software for Barton Junior High School and El Dorado High School. Kognito “provides an interactive platform for teachers to learn about student mental health challenges,” according to a press release from SHARE. “The software allows teachers to practice skills and receive real-time feedback.” The grant will also allow the school district to buy licenses for the Friend 2 Friend program, which provides students with similar opportunities.
The programs are part of ESD’s goal to give students wraparound services that stretch beyond academics, according to behavior support specialist Holly Billings. Billings, who has been in her role for about a year-and-a-half, said this is the first year the district applied for a VIP grant.
“Part of my job is behavioral support; a lot of consulting with teachers and administrators to help give them the tools to keep kids in the classroom, kids who are struggling with challenging behaviors,” she said. “We want those kids to be there and be successful, because they can’t learn and meet the standards they need to meet if they’re not in the classroom.
“Often, when teachers go through school, they have one class on classroom management. This is just giving them additional tools to help manage some challenges they face that we didn’t face when we were kids, because the world is changing.”
Billings said the district has agreements with two community mental health agencies to provide school-based mental health care to students, approved by their parents. That, again, keeps children in the classroom, she said, and increases the communication between the agencies and the school district. Billings also highlighted trauma-informed training school counselors and administrators have received as part of the district’s efforts to provide holistic services.
The grant will fund another aspect of those services.
“One piece of this is training for teachers and administrators; there are multiple scenarios they can log into and have real-time feedback,” Billings said. “Let’s say a student comes in and says they’re thinking about hurting themselves — staff will have an opportunity to interact with this virtual student, receive feedback and work through multiple scenarios. This gives them tools to respond and an opportunity to practice, which is not something people do in their day-to-day jobs.”
The other program is for students, who will use the program in a classroom setting with a teacher working as the facilitator, Billings said. The goal is for teachers and students to be able to use the program during the spring and fall semester, with teachers having the option to access the program during the summer.
“For students, it can be hard to share those kinds of things with each other, so the hope is this reduces the stigma and it creates those safe places to talk about this and encourages communication,” Billings said.
The program has built in data collection — a pre-test and post-test, as well as individuals to provide subjective feedback as well. The goal is the gather that information three times over the next year, Billings said.
She said the district was very excited to partner with the SHARE Foundation and use local funds for schools and students.
• About the grants: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). The grants, totaling $324,371 dollars, are the organization’s third round of VIP grants and thirty-second round of grant awards overall. With the grant announcement, the SHARE Foundation has now give more than $8 million in grants and strategic initiatives to 91 different nonprofits operating in Union County, according to a press release from the organization. The grants fund items including operations, specific programs, software purchases and more.
SHARE’s VIP program began in 2018 and focuses on six areas: mentoring, re-entry, neighborhood watches/clean neighborhoods, parenting/life skills, jobs/targeted education, and mental health/substance and drug abuse.
For more details on the SHARE Foundation, visit their website at sharefoundation.com. The foundation’s Violence Intervention Plan, it’s strategies and intended outcomes are available to review. Contact Debbie Watts, vice president of community impact at SHARE Foundation at 870-881-9015 for more information or to get involved.