Resiliency in the Community Initiative

As we approach May, Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s crucial that we turn our attention to a pressing issue affecting our community: the mental well-being of our youth. In Palm Beach County, we’ve witnessed a concerning uptick in mental health disorders among students in recent years. In the 2021 school year alone, nearly 3,000 students were referred to mental health professionals for counseling with prevalent issues, including depression, anxiety, school-related stress, interpersonal relationships, and traumatic stress.

Recognizing the urgent need for intervention, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County has launched the “Resiliency in the Community Initiative” in collaboration with the School District of Palm Beach County. This initiative,  made possible through funding from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations through the Florida Department of Education, aims to equip our students with the tools and support necessary to navigate life’s challenges.

At the heart of this initiative is a series of resiliency training programs and case management services designed to empower children to cope with and overcome

 adversity. These programs focus on helping students manage their emotions and thoughts across various environments and stressors, teaching adaptive coping strategies essential for mental well-being.

In the program’s initial phase, master’s level clinicians were trained and placed in schools as Resiliency Coaches—to pilot and deliver resiliency lessons, activities, toolkits, materials and coaching to students and families during summer school in 2023. The impact of this outreach has been profound, positively affecting over 3,200 students and families across 10 elementary schools. Feedback from respondents underscores the effectiveness of the program, with 80% reporting a positive impact on students and significant percentages noting the acquisition of essential life skills, resiliency, social support, and solution-focused coaching.

In alignment with the State’s resiliency concepts to build essential skills in our students, we also provided an increase in Youth Mental Health First Aid Training to support the district’s goal of 80% or more of school staff being trained. Additionally, we collaborated with key stakeholders to conduct a needs assessment and gap analysis using data on students’ behavioral and mental health to shape our resiliency initiative for the current school year. Together, we’re committed to empowering our youth and fostering resilience for their future success.

While we celebrate these initial successes, we recognize that our work is far from over. The next phase of the initiative is already underway as we continue to expand and enhance our efforts to help our youth throughout the community.

Building on the success of the 2023 summer program, the current phase of this initiative provides comprehensive case management, wrap-around intervention services for students identified as struggling with chronic absenteeism, truancy, or involvement in the juvenile justice system.  This is in addition to Critical Intervention Mapping with community stakeholders to address behavioral and mental health needs along the Juvenile Justice continuum. We will also contribute to the purchase of curriculum and professional development for teachers to support ongoing resiliency instruction district-wide. We strive to deepen the resiliency of our students and families for years to come through these targeted efforts, which fortify student skills in character, personal responsibility, citizenship, critical thinking, and honesty, ensuring their long-term success.

I urge our community to join us in prioritizing the mental health and well-being of our future leaders. By supporting initiatives like the “Resiliency Through the Community Initiative,” we can ensure that our students are equipped to thrive in the face of life’s challenges.

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