Firehawk Friends

Firehawk Friends Takes Flight

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Kevin’s Buddy Bench is the first Buddy Bench in Central’s new “Firehawk Friends” program. Grounded in the latest research on effective Social Emotional Learning (SEL), this special Enhanced Education (EE) program is served by volunteer parents, with direction from our Counselor Camille Gonzales and Principal Jim Hecocks. As directed, Firehawk Friends will explore, implement and support programs geared toward fostering social emotional learning, friendship, and inclusion.

The objective of Firehawk Friends is to provide EE resources and opportunities that help our students understand their emotions and how to navigate challenges. The hope is to better prepare students to make healthy and safe choices when faced with social and emotional challenges in middle school, in high school, and in adulthood. This is a first-of-its-kind program in the district.

Keeping with the national trend, SVVSD made a formal commitment to mental health, inclusion, and social emotional learning programs last year. At the elementary level, the district adopted the InFocus workbook program last year. Teachers use this curriculum to provide 10-15 minute lessons to help students develop social emotional learning skills. At Central Elementary School, students currently receive 3-4 lessons per week. This is a step in the right direction. Much of the district mental health and SEL funding is allocated for middle school and high school programs, yet there is a push for earlier intervention in preschool and elementary programs.

K-2 InFocus: View a sample lessons here.

3-5 InFocus: View a sample lessons here.

THE NEED IS REAL. In today’s rapidly changing world, children are experiencing greater pressures earlier in life, and feel more stress and anxiety than ever before. According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: In a school classroom of 25 students, five students may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, trauma. And yet studies suggest most children—nearly 80 percent—who need mental health services won’t get them.

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Our counselor Camille Gonzales divides her time between two elementary schools and services the need of 830 students. Her schedule permits 2.5 days per week to address the needs of the 400-plus students at Central. Challenging student cases require ongoing school interventions and supports that leave Ms. Gonzales with little time to provide school-wide outreach and develop new programming. Firehawk Friends parents will provide Ms. Gonzales with the support she needs to develop new programs (i.e. a mentor program for students, special events, parent newsletters and communication channels, SEL workshops). Additionally, the group will work with our Special Education team to explore opportunities to promote understanding with caring and inclusive activities. Learn more at Buddy Bench Programming at Central.

This unique parent group offers many ways to make a direct impact upon your child’s educational experience and the school community. If you’d like to volunteer in any way, big or small, please contact kellykdavidson@gmail.com. All contributions are welcome and needed. 

To support the Kevin Pitts Memorial Buddy Bench Fund, click here.

To learn more about Kevin’s Buddy Bench and programming, visit the links below: