Setting students up for success in life is one of the most important aspects of education. But when a student’s social-emotional health is suffering, difficulties often arise that make learning difficult and academic success for the student harder to attain. Many schools don’t have the specifically skilled staff to attend to students in need, and this is where the Porter-Starke StudentWise program comes in.
Started in fall of 2018 in two Knox Township schools, StudentWise’s mission is to provide local schools with professional aid by helping students develop healthy emotional and social skills.
“Our staff works with teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and administrators to provide social-emotional learning and also behavioral-emotional health services to kids that are identified by the schools or parents as in need of extra support in these areas,” said Tim McCurdy, Psy.D, HSPP, Director of Child and Family Services. “There’s been a growing awareness in the education community about the needs for these services. There’s more and more research about social-emotional competency and how that connects to academic performance. Schools aren’t necessarily set up to address those issues on their own and that was an important part of us creating the program.”
Once a student is connected with a clinician in the StudentWise program, the bachelor’s level staff member works individually with them to develop those healthy skills that can then translate into academic success.
“We meet with the student individually and talk about the skills, practice them, and then shadow them as they use them in their classroom,” McCurdy said. “Our staff is specialized to provide behavioral and emotional skills training and support. We’re able to provide focused treatment and work with kids multiple times a week.”
Students who have healthy social-emotional skills are able to do better in school and beyond, providing them with greater opportunities for a happy and healthy future.
“Kids with better social-emotional skills do better in school as well as outside of and after school. Once people graduate, these same skills carry on into college and careers. People with good social-emotional skills also have a lower rate of criminality and substance abuse,” McCurdy said.
The success of the program speaks to how important the services truly are as well the quality of the StudentWise staff. The program has grown from two schools to 14 throughout four school districts.
“We’ve seen a great amount of school enthusiasm for this program. We’ve gone from beginning this program and reaching out to schools, to schools now reaching out to us wanting us to bring it to their school,” McCurdy said.
For many families, the StudentWise program is often the first entry to mental health services that they were either unaware of or had difficulty attaining. It is also a way to connect families with outside resources they may be in need of.
“We’re seeing kids and families receive services that they wouldn’t otherwise. Very often, this is an entry point to receiving mental and behavioral health services,” McCurdy said. “The staff is trained to identify things that may be going on at home and parents who may need to be connected with other resources. Our staff can draw on our experience and connect them with the resources they may need like medical care or assistance programs.”
Above all, the highly-trained staff works to ensure the student is succeeding.
“We’re seeing results in improved functioning, academically and behaviorally, of the students in school, which is our goal,” McCurdy said.
The team at Porter-Starke is pleased with how the program has grown and is ready to grow even more in the future.
“We want to help as many kids and families as possible. We’re looking to build new partnerships with more districts and meet the kids where they are at,” McCurdy said. “We’re really proud of the program and the response we’ve been getting. We’ve gotten such great feedback from the schools. I’m proud of the staff, they’re dedicated, caring, and motivated. They really care about helping the kids and that’s important.”
The earlier a person can receive help and services, the better, which is one of the reasons Porter-Starke created the StudentWise program. By stepping into the local schools, they can be that early support for students, families, and schools, ultimately helping students to become healthy members of the community.
For more information about Porter-Starke, visit their website: https://www.porterstarke.org/.