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Resilience in School Environments Project Provides Mental Health and Wellness Support

Every day, teachers deal with children who experience traumatic life events ranging from abuse and neglect, to a natural disaster and the death of someone close.

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Every day, teachers deal with children who experience traumatic life events ranging from abuse and neglect, to a natural disaster and the death of someone close.  

The effects of others’ trauma can negatively impact life at work and home. Like first responders who respond to critical incidents, teachers need training and coping skills to protect their own physical, emotional, and mental health.

To help improve the well-being of teachers in under-resourced public schools, Kaiser Permanente awarded $2.5 million to the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) to implement a mental health and wellness program – the Resilience in School Environments (RISE) Project – at selected sites across the United States, including eight schools in Southern California. LAEP is a leader in teaching educators how to deal with stress and other mental health challenges they may face in the classroom.

“Kaiser Permanente has long recognized the need to care for the mental and physical health of students, staff, and teachers in the communities we serve,” said Angela Coron, managing director, community benefit, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Through RISE, we are providing teachers with the resources they need to foster the optimal conditions and positive school climate within which teaching and learning can occur for all students.”

Many educators agree student issues overall have worsened over the past decade nationwide, a reality that may be affecting many teachers’ decision to quit the profession within the first five years.

“RISE addresses the urgent need to support school staff as they work with traumatized students by helping the staff members develop systems that help them take care of themselves and support their own wellness,” said Ana Maria Apodaca, a former school principal and one of the LAEP coaches who will work with school teachers, counselors, administrators, and others who are part of the RISE project.

“This project is timely,” said Dawnyell Goolsby, principal, Hudnall Elementary School in Inglewood, California. “Even teachers with 15-plus years’ experience are having difficulties because of the increasing number of high-stress situations with their students. They’re not accustomed to it.”

The RISE project will build on the success of Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools, which promotes the health of young people by helping them establish lifelong patterns of healthy behavior. Nationally, the RISE project will launch across California, Colorado, and Georgia. All Southern California sites are members of Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools initiative.

“Some of our kids’ stories are horrific,” said Molly White, a history teacher at Cesar Chavez High School in Santa Ana, California, who has taught for five years. “As teachers, we need healthy ways to deal with that. RISE gives us the tools on how to destress when we go home.”

“Kaiser Permanente has raised awareness of the impact traumatic experiences can have in our students’ lives, on learning, and on our teachers – no one has addressed that,” said Matthew Cruz, principal, Cesar Chavez High School. “Teachers no longer feel isolated. There’s a web of support.”

The following Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools will participate in the RISE project:

  • Los Angeles Unified School District: Los Angeles County – Parmelee Avenue Elementary, San Fernando Middle School, Young Oak Kim Academy.
  • Inglewood Unified School District: Los Angeles County – Hudnall Elementary, Morningside High School.
  • Jurupa Unified School District: Riverside County – Ina Arbuckle Elementary School.
  • Santa Ana Unified School District: Orange County – McFadden Intermediate School, Cesar Chavez High School