ACEsMN Committee urged to ‘keep this going’ after summit recap
The Park Rapids School Board heard Nov. 7 from organizers of the area's Aug. 30 summit on resilience.
The Park Rapids School Board received a wrap-up report Monday about the district’s second summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Alternative Learning Center (ALC) teacher Lisa Coborn said the focus of the Aug. 30 conference was resilience. She described it as a timely topic, with students and teachers coming out of COVID-19 restrictions with issues including heightened levels of stress.
“We need to manage that if we’re going to be able to take care of the people that we work with,” she said. “Everybody in the community was kind of reeling after COVID – like, what do we do with this and how do we help people when we’re, maybe, struggling ourselves, too?”
She said participants appreciated keynote speaker Shaun Floerke’s practical advice, memorable stories and record of success working with people who have dealt with trauma through the court system.
Coborn praised the courage of former ALC students who spoke during a breakout session.
“They were brutally honest about what they were dealing with,” she said. “I think it was eye-opening for people to see that they made it. So, they were showing their resilience; but they were also telling all of us, like, ‘This was what I had going on,’ and I know a lot of people had no clue that we had students who were going through that much. And unfortunately, I think we have more than we probably know.”
PAWN Special Education Director Eva Pohl said over 300 people attended the summit, including 204 school staff members as well as parents, caregivers, healthcare or behavioral health personnel, local government personnel and members of the business community.
Pohl said that 159 attendees completed a survey about the event and their comments included:
- “The young girls telling their stories will stick with me forever.”
- “Connecting with students and genuinely caring for them is the very best thing you can do to make a difference.”
- “Some students struggle with such difficulties at home and then are ‘brushed off’ at school or even the hospital as well. We need to all be more alert and aware and intervene when we suspect a problem, even if it is just to let kids know we care.”
- “Learning about the drug information was very interesting yet scary to think of how close it is to home.”
Heart of the community
High school coordinator of educational services Shelli Walsh told the school board that their support for the two summits, along with the contributions of community partners, “shows that there’s a commitment … that the community is willing to partner with the school.”
She said this is important “because let’s face it: The school is, whether you like it or not, kind of the heart of the community. And it’s really hard if there’s not that support with the community partners and the school overall.”
Walsh and Angie Graham with CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Health discussed bringing motivational speaker Mr. Brown to the schools at the beginning of the school year to share the message that “better choices lead to better lives.”
They described Brown as relatable and engaged with the kids, and added that he has released a series of videos featuring his visit to the Park Rapids schools.
Walsh said the ACEsMN Committee has discussed how often they should continue to hold events like August’s summit, in what format and with what focus.
“Because we can’t stop,” she said. “This isn’t going to go away. The trauma is here in the community. There’s always going to be trauma. Our kids are always going to be suffering stressful conditions that we just don’t have a clue about, and they come to our school, and we need to be responsible for their academic learning.”
That learning, she added, “does not happen unless we have that understanding, that empathy, and also the skill set to help these students navigate that tough life that they might be coming to school from.”
Graham said the committee has seen ripple effects from their activities in the community. “No one person can do this alone,” she said. “We need to all work together at this – all of us being everyone in the community. We need to all be around the table to have this conversation and try to help with those resources.”
‘Keep this going’
“I would certainly encourage you to keep this going,” said school board chair Sherry Safratowich. “Please don’t stop.”
Pohl stressed that Hubbard in Prevention is countywide, so future events should also try to pull in participants from Nevis and Laporte.
The speakers acknowledged that Pine Point school staff attended the summit and sent their students to listen to Mr. Brown.
“We all need to continue this conversation,” said Graham, “because no matter what we learned yesterday or today, it’s going to change tomorrow.
“My work is really hard. The prevention world is really hard. But as long as we can change one person, that is the most important thing that we can do. And having all of us around together, to do it together, is really impactful.”
Walsh said trauma-informed practices are important because they work, as shown by the difference they made for students. Nevertheless, Graham acknowledged that there are gaps in the community’s current knowledge and room for new strategies to be brought forward.