Class acts: Baldwin Park USD partnership meeting student, family, community mental health needs
With some of the leanest budget years in history, schools throughout California have struggled to meet basic educational needs. Counties have also been forced to slash important services like mental health counseling, leaving students with mental health needs to suffer the consequences. The Baldwin Park Unified School District has partnered with local universities in the greater Los Angeles area to change that.
The partnership provides graduate students the opportunity to meet the needs of these students with no-cost, high-quality mental health services to children and their families. In addition, interns collaborate with classroom teachers to improve classroom management, and with community members to improve other area services.
The results have been impressive on many levels. Most important, the graduate students’ involvement has made it possible for families to obtain the support they need more quickly. In fact, the program has dramatically shortened what used to be an average six-month waiting period. During the 2011-12 academic year, interns provided counseling support and mental health services to more than 300 students and families districtwide.
“The benefits include improvements in social skills and emotional development in children, improved family dynamics, and improved student performance,” says Baldwin Park Associate Superintendent Froilan Mendoza. “These interventions have increased student achievement.”
The program aligns closely with the vision of Baldwin Park Unified’s school board. The supportive services that are offered through the program assist the development of relevant skills and knowledge, and highlight the value of personal attributes that are necessary for student success. As Mendoza puts it, “They empower students and their families to succeed not only academically, but throughout life.”
Early identification of the need for support is crucial. Early childhood mental health services assist in the academic transition for children and their families. They increase the children’s skills and confidence, allowing them to be more successful as they begin school. In measuring the impact of the program, children demonstrated improvements in self-expression, self-comforting, impulse control and social understanding skills.
“This collaborative relationship has positively impacted students, families, the Early Childhood Education Program and interns,” Mendoza says.
For their part, the graduate student interns gain valuable experience using their bilingual and bicultural skills to address the gap in services. They also work closely with school sites and become a part of the team and community. Ultimately, the interns receive the satisfaction of using their therapeutic skills to assist a population in need.
Longstanding relationships between the district and area universities have been vital in the sustainability of the program. According to Mendoza, the success of the program lies in providing the graduate students with effective supervision and quality assignments.
Read more about Baldwin Park USD’s Graduate Intern Program—a 2012 CSBA Golden Bell Award-winner in the Early Childhood Education category—and about the Golden Bell Program at http://gb.csba.org.