Children, families and educators in western Illinois who have suffered from trauma related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will see support and assistance through newly-funded recovery efforts, programs and staff from the Regional Offices of Education #26 (ROE26). All of this thanks to a two-year $635,000 grant from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
“The pandemic brought on unprecedented challenges for students, their families and teachers,” says Kate Mallory, M.S.Ed., ROE26 SEL Instructional Coordinator/Coach. “Not everyone understands trauma, what it is and how they may be affected negatively by it, especially when it pertains to how the COVID-19 pandemic affected kids and adults here in rural areas of our state.”
Mallory says people in rural America suffer from the lack of or limited emotional support services in their areas (some non-existent), with travel to larger cities for these services many miles away, coupled with limited transportation options. Because these services are not always available, few opportunities exist for social interaction, activities and support. The lack of necessary infrastructure services, such as running water, electricity, reliable internet services and poverty also compound these problems.
Mallory says the two-part, two-year state funding ($323,529 in 2022; $311,471 in 2023) will go towards the Region’s Family Support Program, helping school staff and community agency representatives that support children and families. Some of these programs include:
- Student Support during/after the COVID-19 pandemic
- Culturally Responsive Practices
- Trauma-Informed Educational Practices
- Using Mindfulness Practice Strategies to Improve Learning
- Vicarious Trauma
- Family Engagement Through a Trauma-Responsive Lens
- Youth Mental Health First Aid
- Teen Mental Health First Aid
In addition, she says it will provide support for two full-time positions to help ensure these services are provided, including a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Coordinator and an SEL Family Support Specialist. These positions provide social-emotional training and support to community partners, families, educators and students in 18 school districts (50 schools) in McDonough, Fulton, Hancock and Schuyler counties.
Mallory says the grant will also help change the Region’s truancy program into a more supportive role, as compared to a reactionary response system for kids who don’t show up for class.
“Our truancy program will transform into a family support program and will help remove barriers causing truancy issues with ROE26 area students,” she reports.
The funding also supports the Region and community partners in staging community events such as SEL conferences, awareness events, community health fairs and family engagement activities.
“Having this funding brings an incredible benefit to ROE26 school children and their families,” says John Meixner, ROE26 Regional School Superintendent. “The emphasis behind the ISBE award is to coordinate trauma-related support and training with community collaborators to address these problems together. And that’s what this funding does; that is its intent. It brings unity so our area can heal together so that we can all Champion our Community.”
According ISBE officials, ROE26’s award was one of 136 community grants state-wide allocated to pandemic social-emotional relief efforts. The total of all grants gifted was $86.4 million to support the mental health of students, families and educators in Illinois.