November 2021 – ETAC Community School Spotlight:
Family Resource Centers:
All About Relationships
Spring Valley High School,
East Ramapo Central School District (ERCSD)
For Spring Valley High School Family Resource Coordinator Jacqueline (Jackie) Iaria, it’s all about relationships!
Spring Valley High School is part of the East Ramapo Central School District (ERCSD). As the Family Resource Coordinator in the high school, Jackie is the liaison between Spring Valley H.S. students, their families, and an active group of committed community and business partners. Relationship-building is a critical part of the Community Schools approach—and without the cultivation of trustful relationships, Jackie would not be able to provide her students and their families with the support they need.
Community organizations such as the RCADD (a.k.a. Rockland Council on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependence, Inc.), Center for Safety and Change, VCS (f.k.a. Volunteer Counseling Service of Rockland County) and Families in Need of Services (FINS) help supply requisite services. With the start of school in mid-September, the VCS Clinic and the FINS program have been actively involved in working with several students. Bilingual counselors are also available members of the team.
In addition, with the help of the Salvation Army, Rockland County, and police departments from the Town of Ramapo and Spring Valley, Spring Valley High School hosted an event where approximately 1,025 backpacks, 325 bags and food, and information about the COVID-19 vaccines were distributed. Last month the high school put on their annual Color Run, with over 800 people attending.
The continuation of the pandemic has been especially challenging for students and their families on a variety of levels. Many families have been evicted from their homes, food insecurity is rampant, and numerous families are in need of immigration services. Jackie observes many students are having difficulty coping with these and many other issues. These students need someone who will recognize their value, listen to them, and help address or alleviate the challenges and traumas they’re currently facing.
The first day of school, Jackie searched for a particular student. During the past spring semester, it had become known that this student was in serious need of emotional, physical and legal safety nets. In the process of taking care of her immediate needs, Jackie was able to introduce the student to a potential counselor, and thankfully, the two were a good match.
Developing relationships can be challenging, especially with first-time freshmen students coming in from middle school. It helps when school staff are familiar with and know the students. Jackie works closely with Mariela Gutenberger, the Family Resource Coordinator at Chestnut Ridge Middle School. Guidance counselors also provide a list of identified high-risk students to Jackie, ensuring follow-up and support. By coordinating with Chestnut Ridge, the Spring Valley High School educational, social workers and counseling staff are able to familiarize themselves with incoming students and to ensure they have the necessary resources.
When issues of conflict manifest, Jackie calls on staff from RCADD and the coaches of the Spring Valley High School NICE Team. (NICE is an acronym for “Nurturing. Inclusive. Community. Environment.”) The school’s NICE Team provides a variety of SEL services. In addition, NICE’s counseling services are available in Creole and Spanish. Both organizations lead restorative practices with the students. Jackie has found restorative circles to be a great help particularly with helping middle school students get acclimated into the high school.
Positive, strong relationships are vital to Spring Valley High School ensuring student success. For Jackie, the importance of positive relationships extends even beyond the school. Because of her genuine care and going above and beyond what may be called for, a high school student who graduated a few years ago asked Jackie and her husband to be the witnesses at the former student’s wedding. The former student told Jackie that because she and her husband had helped her during a difficult time when she was in school, she considered them her role models.
As each day presents its own crises and challenges, Jackie is clear that the high school’s staff and East Ramapo family resource coordinators are like family in the support they give each other. Their trust and camaraderie both motivates and provides them with the energy needed to meet the variety of ongoing demands.
“I know if I help a child and they go home safe that day, then I’m happy and I know I’ve done my job,” Jackie said.
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