Last Tuesday, February 4th, twenty-four year old Kelsey Carroll, the subject of the film, Who Cares About Kelsey, came to Reading to discuss her life as a middle school and high school student, and how she is coping as an adult. Kelsey spoke to several groups during the school day including the district leadership team, high school guidance counselors, behavioral health support staff, high school students, and high school faculty. In addition, Kelsey spoke to over 200 interested community members at a film presentation and panel discussion on Tuesday evening at the Jordan’s IMAX theater in Reading.
It is clear from her presentation and remarks that Kelsey is struggling each and every day with her past and current challenges of ADHD, abusive relationships, and a dysfunctional family. She is constantly finding ways to channel her energy into positive results. Kelsey’s comments throughout the day were very consistent from group to group and focused on the following themes:
- School staff need to provide unconditional support that is consistent and caring
- Acknowledge each student and meet them where they are at that moment
- Never give up on a student even when they give up on themselves
- Destructive behaviors may push people away, but it’s that person’s way of expressing pain, anger, frustration
- Find a way to connect, don’t walk away, ignore it, etc.
- Help students find their passion through volunteer service, hands on learning, career exploration (expose them to opportunities they may not think about)
- Work with students on dealing with their disability post-high school on basic things like health care and managing medications, if applicable, financial matters, jobs, how to navigate transitions as an adult with or without parent support
When Kelsey was a student at Somersworth High School in Somersworth, New Hampshire, she was part of the RENEW (Rehabilitation for Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education, and Work) program, a structured school to career transition planning and individualized wraparound process for youth with emotional and behavioral challenges.
This model focuses on supporting each youth to design and pursue a plan for the transition from school to adult life. Research has shown that RENEW has substantially increased the high school completion, employment and post- secondary education participation rates among our most vulnerable youth. You can access more information about the RENEW program here.
Over the last few years, the Reading Public Schools has been focusing on improving the behavioral health and well being of all of our students. We have enhanced our health education programs throughout the district and added additional health courses in grades 7 and 11. Next year, we plan on introducing a new health program in grades 3-5. Our behavioral health staff has grown in the last two years with additional social workers at the high school and middle school level. Next year, in the FY15 budget, we are proposing adding an additional social worker at the high school and elementary schools. In addition, each school has begun implementing the Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS), a structure that allows academic and behavioral health services to be provided for students who are struggling. Although we have a long way to go, we are excited about the direction that we are going to address the behavorial health needs of our students.
Special thanks goes out to Erica McNamara, Executive Director of RCASA, Julianne DeAngelis, Outreach Coordinator for RCASA, Sara Burd, Behavioral Health Coordinator, and Alison Elmer, Director of Student Services, for coordinating this event.