ENGLEWOOD — Sheree Coffman, Student Assistance Counselor for Northmont High School, recently spoke to the Northmont Rotary about her position and how it supports the mission of Northmont City Schools.
The purpose of the Student Assistance Program is to identify and help troubled students experiencing difficulties in school due to a variety of problems. This can include family crises, depression, substance abuse, and relationship issues to name just a few.
Why is this important? Of children ages 9-17, about 21 percent have a diagnosable mental illness or addictive disorder that causes at least minimal impairment. Half of these cases are present by age 14 and only 20 percent in any given year are identified. Of the kids in juvenile detention, 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls have one or more mental illnesses. Early identification and intervention can minimize the long term effects, thereby preventing loss of critical development years that cannot be recovered. This is where Northmont is different as early identification and intervention services are available in the school.
Prevention at Northmont is a three-fold approach that is UNIVERSAL (entire population with a message to prevent/delay problem behaviors) with U.N.I.T.Y. Day as an example. It is also TARGETED for at-risk subsets of students (Reality Club) and is INDICATED (focusing on individuals who are exhibiting early signs of problem behaviors and selecting them for special programs/interventions). Early intervention is the key. Also, the Alternative to Expulsion Program helps to keep kids in a learning environment so that education is not lost. Other programs include Peer Facilitation (anti-bullying education, conflict mediation, peer support), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), and small groups for Grief Support, Coping, Reality Club, etc.
Perhaps one of the most successful and involved programs is U.N.I.T.Y. Day (Uniting Northmont Initially Takes You). The theme is “Be the Change” and is meant to help students understand others who they perceive as being different from themselves. It is also to develop a sense of belonging to their peers and to the school as a whole. Students participate in activities designed for self-disclosure to help them both to understand others and to feel understood and accepted. For each of the past 3 years, the program has included over 400 students, 60 small group leaders, and 60 high school mentors with the activity spanning 4 days.
The Northmont Rotary Club meets at noon each Tuesday at Good Samaritan North Health Center, 9000 N. Main St., Englewood.