Schools have a lot of jobs. In addition to education, schools are tasked with helping children, young people, and families navigate challenges in their lives and connect to the resources they need to succeed. That’s why schools and the organizations that support them are critical partners in accomplishing Best Starts for Kids’ vision.
On Tuesday, Best Starts for Kids partners working in the Bellevue School District met with Executive Constantine at Highland Middle School to celebrate these partnerships and discuss how Best Starts for Kids can continue to collaborate with schools across King County.
Highland Middle School exemplifies how Best Starts school partnerships collectively impact students’ health and well-being. Highland is the site of one of three new Best Starts for Kids-funded school-based health centers. Operated by International Community Health Services in partnership with Youth East Side Services, the center provides medical and mental health services to students at no cost to their families.
In addition to opening the health center, this school year Highland staff received training in trauma-informed care from Youth Eastside Services through a trauma-informed and restorative practices grant. Beginning this summer, students experiencing homelessness in the Bellevue District will be able to enroll in a high quality summer and after school learning program focused on science and technology. In the 2018 – 19 school year, middle school students in Bellevue and 11 other King County school districts will receive expanded mental health screening and referrals.
Collectively addressing changing needs on the Eastside
All of these services provide a platform for lifelong health and well-being, as well as success in school. Partners stressed the impact the health center and other Best Starts-funded programs have already had on students, families, and staff, particularly in reducing barriers to important services.
“For the first time, when I’m sitting with a family and barriers come up, I can say, ‘I have the resources to address that here,’” said Highland Middle School Principal Katie Klug.
International Community Health Services CEO Terasita Batayola emphasized the need to support immigrant and refugee students and families in the Bellevue School District. Nearly half of Highland students speak a language other than English as their first language. “[Immigrant and refugee] youth carry the burden of making sure their families are connected,” said Batayola. “The stress and anxiety for them is huge.”
A whole child approach
Across King County, Best Starts for Kids partnerships support schools and school communities to address the many factors that support physical, social, and emotional well-being. Sometimes called a “whole child approach” or “whole child education,” these supports help schools and their partners create environments that are safe, supportive, respectful and engaging for all young people, families and school staff.
Together, these supports provide a platform for students to not only achieve academically, but grow into happy, healthy, thriving young people. For Highland Principal Klug, the idea of embracing the whole child is nothing new. What’s different? “Now,” she said, “we have the resources to put that into action.”