On February 1, 2017 the Adolescent Wellness Network (AWN) partnered with The County School Superintendent’s Office Healthy Student Grant and the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) to organize and participate in the county’s first “Meet and Greet” networking opportunity. The event brought together social services providers and the educational community to promote local resources available to students and families. Terri Sprigg, Program Director for the Healthy Schools Grant, was a teacher for over 30 years and was inspired to organize the event when she learned there were many valuable local resources and services that she hadn’t known about when she was teaching. “Through my new position in the Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools, and the Healthy Student Grant, I was able to make many connections. I was surprised to see all that the community had to offer! I learned about countless agencies willing and able to help. Why didn’t I know this as a teacher? I could have helped so many parents and children if I would have had this knowledge.” Reports Sprigg.
Approximately 75 people, including representatives from 4 school districts, 14 schools and over 20 local agencies attended the event. Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools, Alfredo Velasquez, welcomed the crowd reminding them how important it is to remember that teachers and staff do not always know what a particular student may be dealing with when they come to school each day. This point was driven home for him when he discovered he had no running water that morning. The incident caused him to reflect on his own resources and privilege and the ways that seemingly minor headaches can be major setbacks for students and families in need. The concept was emphasized further by guest speaker Jorge Ruiz who reinforced the importance of supporting youth and inspiring them to have faith in themselves and their abilities.
Local agencies gave brief overviews of the services they provide then school staff and administrators had approximately 30 minutes to network with the agencies. AWN member Sonia Sanchez received many requests for the Circles of Peace “Strengthening Families” curriculum. The networking portion of the event was so successful that participants requested additional time to connect with agencies, and then requested longer networking sessions at future events. Participants were given a “Community Outreach Guide” with contact information for all the agencies that attended. An updated guide has been finalized and is now available on AWN website and through Chris Bachelier at email@example.com
The event was very timely as it reinforced the need for schools to have an organized system to access these services. The AWN has recently applied for a Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) grant to integrate behavioral health into their School-Linked Health Care model. The proposal would build the capacity of adolescents, parents and the community to promote resiliency, identify risks, and utilize these available resources to improve the overall well-being of adolescents and their families in Santa Cruz County. Funding announcements will be made in April 2017.
Superintendent Alfredo Velasquez was so impressed with the success of the Meet & Greet that he has pledged to support a follow-up event next year.