With the school year coming to a close, a group of guidance counselors and social workers are looking forward to another year of making the lives of students better.
The Sampson County Board of Education received a presentation from 4-S (Supportive Services for Student Success) on the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program. The district is now in its second year of a three-year federal grant, which totals about $1 million. Through the program, social workers and guidance counselors assists students in kindergarten through the fifth-grade.
Guidance counselor Shirley Asor-Sallaah and social worker B.G. Kennedy presented the goals of the program. The majority of them are aimed at making sure students succeed in school and deterring behavioral problem.
The referrals may also include more than just discipline issues. It may also include test anxiety, peer relations or self-esteem issues.
In addition to discipline, another goal is to increase the safety of the school environment.
“How kids feel in the schools make all the difference,” Kennedy said.
Another aspect is the program’s Safe Schools Ambassadors, who are fourth and fifth grade students trained to notice and act on mistreatment.
“They’re the eyes of the school,” Kennedy said. “They see the things in schools that adults don’t.”
He said these students are not the police of the school, but they intervene and report issues. Kennedy said the ambassadors program may have a continuing impact in middle school as well.
“They develop leadership schools in that program,” Kennedy said. “It’s not just your all A students. It’s a diverse group of students, and everyone of those students showed growth because they’re a part of something that matters.”
Asor-Sallaah said another goal is to have lasting services beyond the grant. That’s accomplished by having bi-monthly meetings with teams consisting of counselors, a contracted psychologists and other officials. That’s also achieved through staff development workshops and ongoing mental health training for the 4-S staff.
During the presentation, success stories from each district were also shared.
“We see changes in children, in how they act and how they express to us their feelings,” Kennedy said.
One included a kindergarten student who felt no connection and did not want to attend school. With the program of school professionals, the student’s attendance improved and demonstrated the ability to use skills learned in group sessions.
“We created a connection with the parents so the child did come to school,” Asor-Sallaah said. “This particular child comes to the groups and has learned a lot in the groups.”
Asor-Sallaah also participates with a creative art therapy dance group at Union Intermediate. It began with the purpose to improve the self-esteem of girls, but later they provided academic support for low math grades. As a result, she said the students are more motivated to do well and to self-monitor their academic performances.
Jeana Moore, director of elementary education for the county schools system, said the grant is an additional layer of support for students from different environments who have needs.
“It’s a wonderful program,” Moore said. “It’s doing a lot to support our great counselors and social workers that we already have in the schools.”
Moore hopes the district can reapply and expand the program to middle school, if they receive funds.
More than 200 students were served this school year.
“This is a program that’s making a difference,” Kennedy said. “We got evidence of it and the evidence is continuing to grow.”