We’re thrilled to announce 32 awardees to expand trauma-informed and restorative practices in schools throughout King County. With a total investment of $19.5 million over three years, these awards to schools, school districts, and community-based organizations will provide school-based programs and opportunities that promote healing and create a school culture and climate that honors the unique strengths of young people.
Through authentic partnership with communities that reflect the cultural backgrounds and experiences of the students served, funded projects will provide resources for schools to better understand the root causes and impacts of trauma. Awardees acknowledge the role institutional racism and other forms of oppression play in perpetuating trauma within educational systems, and aim to transform those systems so that all students see themselves positively and believe in their own ability to succeed and thrive.
“Our organization stands ready with our schools for bold change in education. This award provides the space for a critical look at school partnerships and most importantly, how we work in a way that puts the dreams and hopes of our children first,” said Sili Savusa, Executive Director of White Center Community Development Association, which will partner schools in the Highline School District to provide antiracism training to teachers and staff.
White Center CDA will also support teachers to use restorative practices as alternatives to punitive, exclusionary discipline practices like suspension and expulsion, recruit and train community members to mentor students during the school day, and engage parents and school communities in summits, workshops, and planning sessions throughout the year.
Schools and communities in partnership
Each project involves deep partnership between schools, organizations and community members who can relate to students and their experiences within the school system. This community-led approach involves educators, students, families, and communities working closely to establish trusting, respectful relationships as they partner to implement programs and improve school culture and climate.
For example, Unleash the Brilliance will partner with Sound Behavioral Health, Madrona Elementary School in Seattle and Cascade Middle School in Auburn, and the schools’ PTAs. The partnership will bring together parents and students for small group sessions focused on building capacity to name and regulate emotions, manage conflict, reducing complex racial trauma, and building trusting relationships with peers and adults. The project will also include mentoring throughout the school day so that students have daily, positive interactions with a trusted community member.
“I look forward to working with Best Starts for Kids to help our students build a bridge to a destination that will provide them decades of emotional stability and economic security,” said Terrell Dorsey, President and Founder of Unleash the Brilliance.
Addressing trauma by leading with racial justice
Addressing the impacts of racism and other forms of oppression in school environments requires a paradigm shift away from a focus on student behavior, to the role of schools, educators and institutions. Awardees will implement a wide range of activities to improve school culture and climate. Examples include training teachers, staff, and students in mediation and conflict resolution, implementing restorative justice alternatives to suspension and punitive discipline, providing culturally responsive and programs and curricula for students, and using arts and fitness programs to open students to methods of alleviating trauma and promote healing. These programs provide opportunities for students to build self-confidence and feel supported by their communities. These systems changes and programs ensure that throughout the school day, all students receive the message that they are smart, intelligent, and capable of learning.
For example, the Bellevue Schools Foundation will partner with Eastside Pathways and the Bellevue School District Equity Department to expand school-based programs that build on successful annual Break Out Of the Margins (BOOM) and Sistahs Having Outstanding Uniqueness Together (SHOUT) conferences for Black and brown students in the district. In addition to the annual conference, schools will now host regular BOOM and SHOUT meetings during the school day to engage students, foster leadership, improve school culture, and build relationships with mentors from communities of color.
“Best Starts for Kids’ support will expand our programs and enable us to deepen our commitment to racial equity and justice for our Black, Latinx, Native American, Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander and multi-ethnic students,” said Lynn Juniel, Executive Director of the Bellevue Schools Foundation. “We are excited about the student success stories this grant will facilitate—stories of students who feel welcomed and safe at school, who have been nurtured by leaders who reflect their race and ethnicity, whose academic performance is on par with their peers and who look toward the future with optimism and pride.”
Trauma-informed and restorative practices strategies complement and enhance Best Starts for Kids’ other investments in schools, including building school-based health centers, expanding school-based mental health screening and services, and expanding out of school learning opportunities throughout King County. Through these partnerships, Best Starts for Kids aims to promote a whole school, whole child approach to supporting King County’s young people to grow and thrive.