HSD: $6 Million Federal Grant Was Money Well-Spent
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant had positive impacts on both students and staff, and some of the programs will remain in place even after the grant money is gone, the district says.
As it heads into its fifth school year since receiving a $6 million Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant from the U. S. Department of Education, the Hazelwood School District is seeing some positive changes.
“The grant and the programs have influenced our students and staff in many ways,” said Dr. Maxine Veldez, the director of the program for the district.
The district was selected in 2008 to receive the grant over a four-year period. HSD has used it to fund efforts to create safer learning environments and healthier childhood development for students, as well as to prevent violence and drug abuse among them. Plus, the district says it has been able to better address other concerns, such as social and emotional behavior and mental health, thanks to the grant.
While the district didn’t receive additional funding for the 2012-2013 school year, it still plans to use the remaining funds to achieve its goals.
Veldez said that the district will be able to sustain several programs when the grant ends, including the following.
- Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS)
- The Mendez Foundation’s Too Good for Drugs
- Non-violent crisis prevention and intervention training
- Mental health services in partnership with local agencies
- Social and emotional support programs
Other Ways the Grant Has Helped
Elementary students in the district attended the H.E.R.O.E.S. (Helping Everyone Resist Oppression Everyday Safely) in Action Workshop, while middle and high school students took anti-bullying lessons from Shakespeare St. Louis in the 2010-2011 school year.
The previous year, a youth advisory group in HSD called Students Taking Action (STA) created a public service announcement about bullying. The group also received recognition from the St. Louis County Department of Health for a video entry in a youth anti-smoking campaign.
Some after-school activities were also positively affected by the grant, including some outreach programs, several academic clubs and diversity clubs and more. Plus, participation in after-school activities increased each year, starting at just 660 students in the first year and growing to 3,560 by the 2011-2012 school year.
The grant has also helped with training district staff to better serve the students.
One significant area of impact has been mental health services.
“The…initiative has provided one-on-one mental health services to more than 1,600 students since the beginning of the grant,” said Susan Depue, Ph.D., a research assistant professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Valdez said that parents also reported seeing improvements in their children after they received counseling services.
She added that based on the 2011-2012 School Climate Survey, the staff feels that there has been significant improvement in a number of areas. Specifically, she said, these include “schools promoting academic success, the adults caring about every student, believing every student can be a success, and student tobacco use and violence-related student activities.”
“The staff (also) stated that the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative helped the schools provide more services for prevention of students’ mental health problems and linking students and families with community resources,” Valdez said, adding that when students and staff feel safer, there’s more of a connection to the school.