Impact Week: Hope Through Education

Battle Creek Public Schools is working to become a trauma-informed district.

Benjamin Franklin was right: An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. It also delivers the greatest hope.

That’s why United Way BCKR invests heavily in Education, with the goal of improving high school graduation rates to 83 percent by 2030 while reducing racial and economic disparities.

Erica’s Story

The CLIMB (Concrete Lessons in Mindful Behavior) program, a pilot and partnership with Starr Global Learning Network, helped hundreds of Battle Creek Public Schools students district-wide address trauma, build resilience, reduce classroom disruptions and get back on the path toward graduation.

Erica Giron, a BCPS teacher and SGLN certified trainer who served as the program coordinator, said that the relationships she built with students and the growth she saw is not something she’ll soon forget.

“I was lucky enough to stand alongside students who were willing to begin the process of facing their adverse experiences head-on and do the work necessary to become the best versions of themselves,” she said.

CLIMB was supported by a one-year United Way Education grant. It consisted of several elements, including three transition classrooms to support students with behavioral issues and resilience-focused trainings for teachers. Giron managed the classroom serving 6-8th-grade students and conducted a training series for about 90 teachers. Starr provided coaching and consultation, resources and intervention tools.

“We took a holistic approach to working with students in collaboration with their families and outside agency services,” she said. “So often, we overlook the adversities that our students face every single day. Fostering resilience in each student that enters our buildings has been our mission at BCPS. The challenge has been working through the roadblocks we face in doing so.”

Giron worked intensely with 15 middle school students in her transition room, creating individualized behavior plans for each and supporting them in all aspects of their lives. That worked well, but in both the 6-8th-grade and 3-5th- grade rooms, teachers and interventionists found that the rooms were also used as a temporary space for students to check in and reset.

“Whether it was anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness, lack of focus, or the kids just needed a hug, we ended up using that room for that purpose. That tremendously grew the number of kids we were able to impact, and so those were the growth pains. We had to figure out how to systematize that and help it function regularly rather than as a revolving door. We did some major reflecting and really tried to get to the bottom of what the need was.”

The district decided this year to repurpose the program and establish Student Success Centers in each building, a place where students can go for social emotional support, restorative mediations, peer conflict resolution and more. Giron serves as one of two resilience coaches and works with leadership teams to align systems and processes with trauma-informed care and equity work. She continues to train teaching staff, as well.

“Our partnership with United Way empowered us, as a district, to begin the true application of becoming a trauma-informed school district with the support of Starr Global Learning Network.”

#ChangeTheStory in Education

Currently, United Way invests more than $1.6 million in 29 programs aimed at early grade childhood success and kindergarten readiness, early grade reading achievement, and social and emotional wellness. [See all of United Way BCKR’s investments, partnerships and collaborations here.]

Research shows early grade reading mastery, especially third-grade reading proficiency, is one of the best predictors of a child’s future school success. United Way supported reading programs yielded key successes in 2017:
• 80% of instructors who received in-class literacy coaching had higher reading proficiency among their students.
• 89% of students in three elementary schools who were paired with volunteer reading mentors were proficient readers.

Yet the challenge remains: Just 30% of third-graders in all districts in our region can read proficiently. Those who don’t are four times more likely to drop out of school. United Way is working with school districts and other partners to improve that performance.

Check out our Education video to learn more about our work in this area.

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We’re celebrating Impact Week! Discover how your United Way is tackling the toughest challenges in our regional community. Here are links to other Impact Week information:

Our Impact – a comprehensive data report on United Way investments and results.
Delivering Results, Changing Lives – an overview of what’s ahead for Impact Week.
Ensuring a Safety Net – helping those in crisis get back on their feet.
Fighting for Financial Stability – tackling poverty and near-poverty effectively.

Tomorrow: Reaching That First Birthday