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Community conversation brings youth mental health to the forefront

Young people today are experiencing a mental health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before. Nearly one in five youth in Colorado reported poor mental health in 2021 — double the rate seen in 2017. Social media, the pandemic, and climate change were just some of the external pressures students and parents cited during A Community Conversation: Supporting the Mental Health of Our Youth, a panel discussion that gathered more than 300 people at Manhattan Middle School on April 12, 2023. 

Panelists included clinicians, community health professionals, educators, and people with lived experiences. All agreed that the conversation starter was an important step toward equipping the community with information that can bridge the generational divides and produce healthy dialog that will lead to solutions.

Impact on Education hosted the event in collaboration with UnitedHealthcare, Centura Health, Comcast, The Colorado Health Foundation, and Boulder Valley School District. 

“Impact on Education is committed to providing an elevated level of mental health support for all BVSD students. Beyond what we can provide during the school day, engaging families and the community is a crucial part of supporting student mental health and well-being.”

– Allison Billings, Executive Director at Impact on Education

Watch with English captions

Why we need to talk about mental health

According to the CDC, it is estimated that one in five children ages 3-17 experience a mental disorder each year, the most common of which are ADHD, anxiety, behavioral problems, and depression. The CDC reports that in 2021, 42 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless regularly, for at least a two-week period, that they stopped doing their normal daily activities. Furthermore, a CDC study states that compared with pre-pandemic levels, teenagers are more likely to experience persistent feelings of distress or malaise that interfere in their lives. They are more likely to think about suicide and more likely to attempt it.

How the community can support our youth

The event presented the idea that, together, the community can elevate the mental health and well-being of our youth. Panelists discussed the current risks facing our youth; techniques for communicating with children about their mental health needs; and school, community, and health care resources available to parents. Information about local and state trends, as well as the risks, influencing factors, and available supports were shared with the audience, primarily parents of students in BVSD. 

“Fostering resilient children requires engagement with their families, friends, mentors, and the community. At UnitedHealthcare, we felt privileged to be an organizing sponsor of this important event with our partners at Impact on Education and the Boulder Valley School District.”

– Marc Neely, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Colorado & Wyoming

Discussions also included clinical expertise on trends; resources available to parents; and how to start and sustain mental health conversations with kids. 

To access resources distributed at the event click here. For those who were unable to attend the event, Comcast is producing a television special which will be available for viewing online soon.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Together we can elevate the mental health of our youth. Impact on Education is committed to the mental health of BVSD students. Your gift helps provide Wellness Centers and Mental Health Advocates in schools, and resources and training to support the well-being of staff, students and their families.

Funding mental health and student well-being

Immediately after the Marshall Fire, mental health professionals from surrounding school districts came to BVSD to work with impacted students and families. During this time, it became apparent that providing students with ongoing mental health support during the school day was the most effective way for Impact on Education to support their recovery.

Since January 2022 we’ve worked closely with BVSD staff to continue providing this additional level of support, which includes:

BVSD’s first wellness center

At Monarch High School, where 1 in 10 students was impacted by the Marshall Fire, a Wellness Center was created to support students in August 2022. Staffed by a full-time counselor, the Wellness Center provides students a safe place to recharge and speak with a trained professional during the school day. 

Wellness Center Impact
August – December 2022

How Mental Health Advocates are supporting students and families

Mental Health Advocates (MHAs) focus exclusively on mental and behavioral health, supplementing what BVSD school counselors can provide. Within BVSD, MHAs:

The intensity of mental health concerns and the time required to provide support and intervention varies dramatically from case to case. The additional MHAs ensure the schools impacted by the Marshall Fire have the intensive layer of mental health support needed, and expand the district’s capacity to respond to mental health needs.

Mental Health Advocate Impact

August – December 2022

Our funding priorities

Impact on Education is committed to providing an elevated level of mental health support for all students, especially those affected by the Marshall Fire. Meeting these three goals would allow us to serve 11,698 students at 12 schools across BVSD:

  1. Scaling the Wellness Center program by replicating the model to offer it at 5 BVSD high schools
  2. Retaining four MHAs supporting through the 2023-24 school year
  3. Providing mental health training and educational resources for students, families, and staff

Join us to ensure students have mental health supports available during the school day.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

Why our Marshall Fire support continues

In early 2022, we began supporting the immediate and long-term recovery of the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) students and educators affected by the Marshall Fire. Our work has provided:

To see a full summary, please visit our Crisis Response page.

Prioritizing mental health

Immediately after the fire, mental health professionals from surrounding school districts came to BVSD to work with impacted students and families. During this time, we saw that providing students with mental health support during the school day was the most effective way to support their recovery. 

We worked closely with BVSD staff to continue providing an additional level of support. Impact on Education quickly enabled BVSD to hire four additional Mental Health Advocates (MHAs).

The new MHAs were hired in the spring of 2022 to support BVSD’s most impacted schools. They provided over 130 consultations and direct support to 93 families and 359 individuals and directed families to additional resources from Impact on Education, BVSD, and community partners, including:

Our partners with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy shared that six months after a disaster is often when the financial and emotional realities begin to sink in. Knowing these important moments would happen over the summer break, we allocated funding to ensure two MHAs could work over the summer to support 330 students.

Providing support during the 2022-23 school year

Mental Health

The MHAs continue to provide services at our most fire-affected schools. They provide students with consultations, family support, individual counseling, and support groups. MHAs also support the district Trauma Response teams and facilitate Resilience in Schools and Educators (RISE) sessions for educators and staff.

Financial and academic support

Early in the school year, we learned that families were continuing to experience or experiencing new financial challenges. We worked with BVSD to provide a way for families to request additional support, and are providing funding to cover the costs of school meals, transportation expenses to and from school, free virtual tutoring, and after school care.

Our work is not done

We know the needs of our community will continue and change through the 2023-24 school year. We are currently working on multiple ways to continue expanding the mental health services and resources available to both students and their families.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

IOE funding expands mental health support for BVSD students and staff

This post is an updated version of this article posted on February 25, 2022.

Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a pediatric mental health state of emergency in May of 2021, citing skyrocketing demand for mental health services among Colorado’s youth. In addition to the well-documented impact of the pandemic on mental health, our community also experienced a mass shooting and Colorado’s most destructive wildfire in 2021. 

BVSD is committed to providing mental health support for students from kindergarten through graduation. For young learners, sharing feelings and learning to work through problems will be all they ever know, and for older learners, having school-based support is critical to navigating mental health struggles.

We’re investing over $800,000 to support the ongoing mental health needs of students and staff throughout the Boulder Valley School District.

Mental health professional development for BVSD staff

School Age Care (SAC) staff serve a diverse group of students daily at 32 sites throughout Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). From grade levels to academic ability levels to emotional and behavioral health levels, SAC staff must manage each student’s needs and create a safe environment outside of school hours for students and staff.

Impact on Education funded six hours of Calming Kids professional development for BVSD School After Care educators to teach them strategies for managing student mental health needs and their own. The first sessions were held in 2021 thanks to a partnership with the City of Boulder’s Housing and Human Services Department, and additional sessions are planned for 2022.

Expanding BVSD’s team of mental health advocates

In the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD), referrals of students to Mental Health Advocates have risen by 86% this school year compared to the same period during the 2020-21 school year. 

Mental Health Advocates supplement what BVSD’s school counselors can provide since their focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral health. Within BVSD, Mental Health Advocates: 

Impact on Education provided funding to hire four additional Mental Health Advocates to be deployed year-round in BVSD’s schools most impacted by the Marshall Fire. 

“We are seeing a significant increase when it comes to the social-emotional support our students need at this critical moment. Those impacted by the fire are working to process everything that happened. It was a deeply traumatic experience and it will take some time for these students to cope with the tremendous amount of loss and PTSD that everyone impacted by the fires are struggling through.”

Tammy Lawrence, Student Support Services Director

The additional support of four new Mental Health Advocates will ensure all of the schools impacted by the Marshall Fire have the intensive layer of mental health support needed, and expand BVSD’s capacity to respond to mental health referrals. 

The intensity of mental health concerns and the time required to provide support and intervention varies dramatically from case to case, but BVSD’s leadership is confident that adding these clinicians to the School District team was the most critical immediate step.

Funding to support mental health has come from our generous community partners


YOU CAN HELP …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We are still actively raising funds to support the mental health needs of Boulder Valley students and staff. You can help by making a gift to support this work.

Local community donates over 200 musical instruments to BVSD students

Of the many things lost in the Marshall Fire, musical instruments can be difficult and expensive to replace. Since the fire broke out, we’ve been working closely with Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to help replace these instruments. 

An outpouring of support

Over 100 instruments that were lost in the fire have been replaced, and there are an additional 100 now in the BVSD inventory for students who need assistance getting one in the future. Over 50 individuals kindly donated their personal instruments, while:

Funding repairs and cleaning

Thanks to the community’s generous donations to our Marshall Fire fund, we directed dollars to ensure these donated instruments could be put to use. Impact on Education paid for shipping costs, instrument repair and professional cleaning, which met an immediate need and helped BVSD quickly provide instruments to students impacted by the fire.

Because our community came together to help, we’ve been able to stretch our dollars further and fund other urgent needs.

A small, but meaningful way to support recovery

Having a community willing to contribute really helped to reduce stress for our students and families about how to replace their instruments.

“My best hope is that these efforts enabled our students to get back to making music,” says Aubrey Yeh, Coordinator of Language Arts & Humanities with BVSD. “It was one less thing for families to worry about.”

She says students found handwritten notes inside instrument cases, sharing thoughtful messages of hope with some of the recipients. A few of the instruments were family heirlooms, having been passed through generations, and are now being passed to a new family.


BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. The size and scope of rebuilding our community in the wake of a pandemic, a mass shooting and Colorado’s most devastating wildfire is overwhelming. Providing access to mental health resources is critically important as our community recovers. We need your help to provide mental health support today.

Increasing mental health support for students most affected by the Marshall Fire

Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a pediatric mental health state of emergency in May of 2021, citing skyrocketing demand for mental health services among Colorado’s youth. In addition to the well-documented impact of the pandemic on mental health, our community also experienced a mass shooting and Colorado’s most destructive wildfire in 2021. In the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD), referrals of students to Mental Health Advocates have risen by 86% this school year compared to the same period during the 2020-21 school year. 

What are mental health advocates?

Within BVSD, Mental Health Advocates provide prevention and intervention services for students, supporting their social-emotional and behavioral development, student achievement, and crisis intervention.

Mental Health Advocates can also provide both group and individual counseling support and work directly with students, parents, and staff members. For more acute counseling needs, they help families access external resources for mental health. As a direct result of the Marshall Fire and the mental health impacts this is having on our community, we are working to immediately increase the mental health services available to BVSD students.

Raising funds to expand BVSD’s team of mental health advocates

Impact on Education is actively seeking funding to facilitate hiring four additional Mental Health Advocates to be deployed in BVSD’s most impacted schools. The additional staff would be assigned to the 7 schools most directly impacted by the Marshall Fire, serving 6,061 students, 687 of whom lost their homes or remain displaced. With more than one in every ten students losing their homes and nearly all students at these schools impacted by the evacuation orders and trauma of temporary displacement, these are the schools with our most pressing mental health needs right now.

“We are seeing a significant increase when it comes to the social-emotional support our students need at this critical moment, those impacted by the fire are working to process everything that happened. It was a deeply traumatic experience and it will take some time for these students to cope with the tremendous amount of loss and PTSD that everyone impacted by the fires are struggling through.”

Tammy Lawrence, Student Support Services Director

The additional support will ensure all of the impacted schools have the intensive layer of mental health support needed, and expand BVSDs capacity to respond to mental health referrals. The intensity of mental health concerns and the time required to provide support and intervention varies dramatically from case to case, but BVSD’s leadership is confident that adding these clinicians to the School District team is the most critical immediate step.

Nearly half of the necessary funding was secured from a donation from the Community Foundation’s Boulder County Wildfire Fund and we are actively working with other funding partners to secure the balance of the required funding.

The importance of mental health support right now

Increasing mental health support to the students most affected by the Marshall Fire will benefit approximately 6,061 students in 7 of the 32 schools home to students impacted by the fire. BVSD’s Mental Health Advocates collaborate and make appropriate referrals to partners including Mental Health Partners and Jewish Family Services.

Mental Health Advocates supplement what BVSD’s school counselors can provide since their focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral health. They work directly with the administration in each school building to determine the needs, and then collaborate on what curriculum to use to meet individual students’ needs. This includes working in collaboration with school counselors to ensure there is a direct impact for each student, and extends into providing services to the teachers and staff who always play a key role in supporting the social-emotional health of the students.

District seeking additional mental health grants

Beyond their funding request to Impact on Education, BVSD is requesting two emergency grants, one state and one federal, to provide additional mental health staffing and support to schools most impacted by the Marshall Fire.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support of Impact on Education and our entire community, as we work to provide support for those impacted. This is not a situation that will be resolved in days or weeks. We must be ready to help our fellow neighbors for the many months and years it will take to not only rebuild, to once again feel safe and to return to normalcy.”

Dr. Rob Anderson, BVSD Superintendent

Read more about BVSD’s plans to hire school counselors, nurses, and outreach positions in this story from the Daily Camera.


YOU CAN HELP …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We are still actively raising funds to support the mental health needs of Boulder Valley students and staff. You can help by making a gift to support this work. On the donation form, where it says “My donation is for” please select “Critical Needs Fund – Marshall Fire.”

How BVSD Community Liaisons support families in need

In difficult times, sometimes it’s hard to know where to turn. For many families in the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD), their school’s community liaison is their first – and sometimes only – trusted resource.

What is a community liaison?

Most schools in BVSD have a community liaison who works to direct services to high needs students and families and acts as liaison for families with school and community agencies. Liaisons are key to providing opportunities for students to develop a desire and ability to complete their education. They also advocate for practices and policies that may help decrease student dropout rates, increase graduation rates, and increase student attendance and achievement.

We often refer to the team of community liaisons at BVSD as our front line workers. During remote learning periods they helped provide emergency resources for families, including delivering food and other essential supplies to students’ homes, assessing who needed home internet, and offering up emergency child care for students who didn’t have other options. They are also playing a crucial role in our Marshall Fire response and helping to recruit students for our Career Readiness Academy.

3 ways we partnered with community liaisons this month

Many BVSD students and families are in need of essential supplies to support their ability to learn and stay in school. Using $40,000 of the funds raised through our Critical Needs Fund, last week we distributed:

These resources were distributed to community liaisons at their February meeting. Thank you to our partners at Premier Members Credit Union who joined the meeting and provided breakfast AND a coffee gift card to each liaison as a thank you for their incredible dedication to students and families.

“Impact on Education is a reliable bridge to community resources. Our community liaisons know they can depend on Impact’s steadfast commitment to students and families and the generosity of their donors to meet the needs of those in our community facing the toughest challenges.”

Ari Gerzon-Kessler, Coordinator of Family Partnerships

In total, this month we placed over $50,000 of assistance into the hands of those who work most closely with BVSD students and families in financial need, continuing our long-standing partnership. 

We know how hard BVSD’s team of community liaisons works to provide resources to those who need them most and are so grateful for their commitment to our students.

Helpful resources for families

The team at BVSD has a fantastic resource page for families, with information about key BVSD supports, ways to get involved and stay informed, who to contact if you need help, and a list of community resources and services:
https://www.bvsd.org/parents-students/family-supports

Five ways we are supporting Marshall Fire recovery for the BVSD community

Four weeks ago, the Marshall Fire devastated our community, and left many of our family, our friends, and our colleagues unexpectedly displaced. Our schools and neighborhoods are collectively grieving and working to help each other rebuild, both physically and emotionally.

We remain grateful to every individual, business and community partner who’s reached out to us looking for ways to help. Thanks to this generous outpouring of support, we’ve raised over $700,000 through our Critical Needs Fund to support BVSD students and staff. 

We’ve already distributed backpacks full of school supplies to students who lost their homes and here are five additional ways we’re supporting recovery for the BVSD community right now.

1. Providing 900 “Comfort Kits” to displaced students and staff

Thanks to a generous donation of backpacks from JanSport, we’ve been working with local volunteers to build “comfort kits” by filling these backpacks with gift cards, blankets, art supplies, journals, letters of support from students and community members and other age-appropriate items. 

This week, schools will receive enough “comfort kits” for every student that is still displaced by the Marshall Fire and included on the McKinney-Vento roster. Soon after, kits will also be delivered to each of BVSD’s over 70 displaced staff members.

We’d like to say thank you to JanSport, Boulder Book Store, Grandrabbit’s Toy Shoppe, and every individual and business that has made a donation of their time or resources.  

2. Supporting the mental health of students and staff

Families rebuilding their lives after the devastation of the Marshall Fire face a mountain of challenges, and that stress and uncertainty weighs heavily on them. In close coordination with BVSD Student Support Services, we are working to secure funding to increase the number of Mental Health Advocates available and programming that will support the emotional well-being of students and staff. The Marshall Fire’s impact on our community’s well-being is significant, and we feel strongly that we must immediately increase the mental health services available to BVSD students.

3. Transportation stipends

With students from Louisville and Superior now displaced and living all across the Front Range, getting students to and from school each day presents a new and immediate challenge for families. With the shortage of bus drivers, providing additional routes and changing current routes cannot reach all displaced families. BVSD is promoting the school pool program, in the hope that families will be able to help others who need help getting kids to school, but carpools and buses are not enough. 

The McKinney-Vento Act provides an optional reimbursement for personal transportation costs, but it’s modest and barely covers the cost of gas. Impact on Education is supplementing the transportation reimbursement so all families who now have to drive their students further can be fully reimbursed for those costs. We know it’s not the same as living in the neighborhood, but we hope it makes things a little easier for families who are struggling. 

4. Replacing instruments and athletic equipment

Working closely with our partners at BVSD, we are identifying students that are missing academic materials, including textbooks, library books, musical instruments, Chromebooks and athletic equipment. When these items can’t be replaced with a donation or insurance, Impact on Education is paying for replacements so each student can fully engage in school. From golf clubs and violins to textbooks and hockey pads, we’re making sure students can return to their learning, their music, athletic endeavors and other extracurriculars without delay. 

5. Crocs donating shoes to every BVSD student and staff member

You may have already seen that Crocs committed to providing over 30,000 pairs of Crocs to students and staff in the Boulder Valley School District. We’ve all been through a lot, and this generous donation is extra special because it will provide a little comfort to the entire BVSD community of students, educators, administrators and staff. We’re helping facilitate the distribution of Crocs in the coming months, starting with our schools impacted most by the wildfire.


What lies ahead

We’re only able to do all of this impactful work with the support of volunteers and community partners, and our work is not done. Your help allows our small staff team to continue focusing on tackling the ongoing needs of all students. 

We’re working on providing summer learning opportunities for 160 rising kindergarten students, facilitating a Career Readiness Academy for low-income BVSD high school students, and addressing economic and learning barriers that curtail student success

The importance of our mission does not change during a crisis. The students in our community rely on us to ensure they have the resources needed to fully engage in their learning. Our work to empower students and educators drives us in good times and in challenging times, too.

How our Critical Needs Fund will support the BVSD community

It’s hard to believe the Marshall Fire began two weeks ago. We remain heartbroken to see the devastation in our backyard and more so as we realize how it will affect the community for years to come.

Impact on Education raises $500,000 for BVSD students and staff

We’re pleased to report that we not only met last week’s $50,000 matching grant challenge from Don and Karen Brown, but we’ve now raised over $500,000 through our Critical Needs Fund since the Marshall Fire began on December 30th. The outpouring of support from the community is uplifting to see, and we’re incredibly grateful to the 800 donors that helped us reach this milestone.

The funds we’re raising will directly support the immediate needs, long-term recovery, and mental health of BVSD students and staff.

What we’ve done so far

Our immediate focus was ensuring that the students who lost their homes would be able to return to school with everything they needed to resume learning. We brought together community volunteers and supporters to organize and distribute nearly 600 backpacks filled with school supplies and headphones for these impacted students across the district.

We’ve also utilized our dedicated volunteers to:

Thank you to the volunteers who have supported us with these efforts and to the hundreds more who raised their hand to help!

More support for staff and students is coming

While the needs of our community become more clear, our next step is to provide cash assistance to staff and gift cards to students most in need of support. In addition, we have volunteers corralling in-kind donations from local partners and will be creating comfort kits that will be distributed to impacted students and staff later this month.

We’re simultaneously working with BVSD and other partners to build a long-term mental health response that will support everyone in the district. This fire impacted the entire community, and coupled with the stress of the pandemic, we know providing free access to mental health resources will be critically important. 

BVSD also continues their work to support families and employees directly impacted by the Marshall Fire and offering trauma support.

Responding to the Marshall Fire

The magnitude of the Marshall Fire tragedy is unimaginable. But so is our community’s willingness to help. Thanks to this generous community, so far we’ve raised over $200,000 from over 400 supporters through our Critical Needs Fund. These dollars are already being deployed to fund the distribution of backpacks, headphones and school supplies to nearly 600 students at 22 affected schools in BVSD.

School supplies delivered for every impacted student

In close coordination with BVSD, our immediate focus is enabling students to return to school and to learning as quickly as possible. Yesterday, we pulled together 25 volunteers who helped us organize and deliver 600 backpacks filled with school supplies to 22 BVSD schools with students displaced by the Marshall Fire. Every BVSD student who lost their home was welcomed back to school today with a brand new backpack and the supplies they need to start the semester off.

The needs of our community are continuing to unfold and we’re here to help.

BVSD staff are rapidly gathering information about the academic materials that need to be replaced including textbooks, workbooks, computers, calculators, musical instruments, athletic equipment, library books, and more. Impact on Education will deploy our Critical Needs Fund dollars to pay for these supplies as well so that school can return to normal for students. 

$50,000 matching grant from longtime Louisville residents

To ensure that we have the financial resources to meet the ever-evolving needs of our schools and students, we are proud to announce a $50,000 matching grant from Don and Karen Brown, longtime Louisville residents and champions of public education. Every dollar raised by Friday, January 7th, up to $50,000, will be doubled thanks to the generosity of the Brown Family.

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Impact on Education
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