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Cherryland Elementary - Hayward, California: Helping Children and Staff Cope with Trauma Through Partnerships

Cherryland Elementary - Hayward, California: Helping Children and Staff
 Cope with Trauma Through Partnerships
Over 40 partners help to bring business and faith programs into Cherryland Elementary 
 
 
Health Fair and Food Pantry Mobile
 
As the bus approached Cherryland Elementary School, members of the Community Schools Leadership Network were greeted by a swarm of staff members wearing red and white cougar hats and jackets. Students waved enthusiastically, excited to see the new faces. 
 
The welcoming atmosphere and professionalism helped to prepare the group for the remarks of Dr. Itoco Garcia, Hayward Unified Principal of Cherryland Elementary who began by describing the neighborhood and how many of the current realities, successes, and challenges of the school are rooted in the historical context of the city and region. His presentation focused on how the community schools strategy is helping Cherryland students break the barriers to accessing health services and trauma care, and thereby improving their attendance and performance.

Cherryland Elementary students 
 
"Our goal is that students graduate college and/or career ready, proud to be Made in Hayward. Our Made in Hayward approach involves all members of the community - staff, families, partner organizations - to best serve our students. Our Community Schools framework helps make sure we are working together to meet our goals for student success." - Dr. Matt Wayne, Interim Superintendent 
 
Cherryland Elementary serves 800 students from Prek-6th grade. 93% of the Cherryland students are currently on free and reduced lunch status. It is a diverse school with 23 different languages spoken and 64% of the students identified as English language learners. The largest population at Cherryland are Latino students with the next largest subgroup identified as African American.
 
Cherryland is unique in how it manages partnerships, obtains community input and most importantly how it uses dynamic mindfulness to help teachers and students dealing with vicarious trauma. 
 
Most community schools utilize full-time coordinators, Cherryland Elementary School, on the other hand, does not have the financing for one right now. Their alternative is a coordination team which is comprised of the principal, assistant principal, intervention specialist after school coordinator director, parent outreach worker, and the support staff consists of mental health clinicians, attendance clerks, and teachers. Site visit participants could feel the shared commitment to one another and more importantly their commitment to the success of their students, as members of the team spoke about their work.  
 
In addition to the strong leadership of Principal Garcia, Cherryland has benefited from participating in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) organized by Assistant Superintendent for Student and Family Services Support, Chien Wu-Fernandez who leads Hayward’s community schools work with the support of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agencies Center for Healthy Schools and Community. The purpose of the PLC is to improve understanding and shift practices, with regard to collaborative leadership, communications & engagement, equity, and integrated partnerships. Educators and community partners from five schools are participating in the PLC.  Watch this video about the community schools PLC here.
 
"Hayward Unified is using the Community Schools framework to develop the necessary conditions for learning so our students can thrive and succeed.  Cherryland is an example of how Hayward is translating theory into action by uniting our partners, teachers, parents, and staff towards a common set of goals and strategies to achieve positive results for our students." - Chien Wu-Fernandez, Assistant Superintendent Student and Family Services
 
The Cherryland community currently has one of the highest rates of adverse health conditions in Alameda County. The school was experiencing a range of challenges; Principal Garcia recognized these issues and put together a needs list using Maslow’s Hierarchy. The needs list focused on building a health and wellness culture. As a result, Cherryland has integrated partnerships with various health agencies in the community. Students are now able to navigate significant amounts of trauma through the use of various health resources. Partnerships also help the staff focus on addressing the needs of students academically. Currently Cherryland Elementary has 43 partnerships with outside agencies, businesses, and faith programs. 
 
 
Figure 1                   
 
 
 
  Figure 2     Result of Integrated Partnerships 
 
According to Principal Garcia, Cherryland Elementary started implementing various services focusing on trauma care in 2016. Some of the techniques include:
• Dynamic mindfulness
• Breathmobile (Sustainable accessible, community – wide asthma management program)
• Integrated Arts 
• Parent engagement network 
• Home visits 
• Grade level parent workshops  
 
Dynamic Mindfulness is not just reserved for selected students. This practice is used to sustain health and wellness for students and teachers dealing with vicarious trauma. Since the focus on trauma care has become a priority counselors at Cherryland Elementary are seeing positive results in their students. Truancy rates decreased by 4.6%. Excessive absences decreased by 19% and the overall absenteeism rates dropped by 13%. 
 
"We are often first responders to incidents and yet we’re expected as educators to go for often as long as a 30-year career with absolutely nothing to help us process the stress and the secondary trauma of our work, so that’s why a practice like dynamic mindfulness is so critically important for teachers and students. I’m seeing adults take a minute, start to breathe, do a movement, center themselves and then engage in an interaction with students to make sure it's positive, affirming and healing for kids. If our field is not attending to the health and wellbeing of teachers than its incumbent upon us as community schools that we attend to that need for teachers, this is why dynamic mindfulness is important. I myself have started using these practices" - Dr. Itoco Garcia, Hayward Unified Principal of Cherryland Elementary -
 
The mobile pantry is the photo at the start of this article.  Once a month people line up to receive various resources. During the delivery,  school  and partner staff move up and down the line checking with parents and providing information on the upcoming health fair or adult education information. This process helped the school to start regularly conducting surveys focusing on community need, and the efficacy of partnerships. Since Cherryland has a captive audience of between 100-300 people once a month they're also using it as an opportunity to vet new partnerships. Before fully deciding to integrate new partners Cherryland gives them the opportunity to offer their service at their  mobile food pantry on a trial basis, to ensure it is a good fit for the school and partners. 
 
"Our community school work has had a transformative effect on community engagement, attendance, school climate and most importantly how we as a community of educators conceive the purpose of schooling and what the outcomes of education should be for our students and families."- Dr. Itoco Garcia, Hayward Unified Principal of Cherryland Elementary-
 
For more information about Cherryland Elementary please click here. To view Cherryland Elementary Schools journey to health and wellness presentation click here.
 
Cherryland Elementary - Hayward, California: Helping Children and Staff  Cope with Trauma Through Partnerships The Cherryland Elementary School “Cougars” Step Off Team
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