Princeton Area Community Foundation awards $ 275,000 to a group of directors and administrators across the state to help students exposed to trauma

The Princeton Area Community Foundation is donating $ 275,000 to a statewide organization for principals and administrators to fund a program to teach school staff in Mercer County how to identify students exposed to stressful or traumatic experiences, and how to involve all students in a way that promotes healing from the effects of the pandemic on mental health.

The Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) is the nonprofit arm of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, a member services organization dedicated to promoting educational excellence by supporting principals through advocacy government, legal assistance, leadership programs, professional learning and retirement counseling. FEA’s “Commitment to Healing” initiative will be funded by a $ 137,500 grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund. An additional $ 137,500 is donated for the project by a foundation fund holder who wishes to remain anonymous.

The program is part of a statewide pilot program created by the Foundation for Education Administration earlier this year and supported by grants from the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the Burke Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Health Initiatives, and NJ Pandemic. Relief Fund, with assistance from the NJEA (the state teachers’ union), the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Education and the Office of Resilience of the New Jersey Department of the Children and Families . Three schools in Trenton and one school in Hamilton were part of the initial cohort of 26 statewide schools.

“We know that trauma can inhibit a child’s ability to learn, develop language skills, and create healthy attachments. The stress and isolation of the pandemic has contributed to worsening student mental health, ”said Atiya Weiss, executive director of the Burke Foundation. “We are thrilled with this innovative partnership to expand healing-centered schools in Mercer County in partnership with the Princeton Area Community Foundation. Supporting whole-school training on adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed approaches and mental health will provide new tools for our educators and staff to help our children heal and live. ‘flourish.

The grant will allow FEA to expand its program to up to 25 additional schools in Mercer County. Priority will be given to schools with a large number of economically disadvantaged students.

“Every child who goes back to school has a COVID-19 story, and they’ve all gone through some level of trauma,” said Jeffrey Vega, president and CEO of the Princeton Area Community Foundation. “With this grant, FEA will be able to train teachers and other school staff to recognize signs of trauma and help create action plans to connect children and families to community resources.”

Children who experience traumatic events or stress sometimes act in ways that may seem disruptive and, as a result, may be disciplined by school staff. The FEA program helps school staff, including teachers, nurses and counselors, learn to recognize students who have experienced trauma and stress so that they can respond with socio-emotional support.

Each school receives general training and some of the staff undergo intensive training so that they can teach a mental health first aid program for young people. Schools are also working with coaches to develop plans to help students and staff recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Another important element of the program is to build links between schools and the community. In some cases, school staff refer families to other nonprofits for help. The program requires each school to have at least two nonprofit community partners. FEA has already trained over 2,000 school and community staff.

Sam D. Gomez