Arionna Wilkerson CED alum

With mental health issues on the rise, it is important for counselors and teachers to enter the school with a trauma-informed lens. Trauma impacts so many individuals, including students in school settings, the teachers who teach them, parents and legal guardians, and other school personnel. Trauma can slow down or stop a child’s ability to learn, which can result in falling behind in a class or lead to behavioral problems in the classroom. A trauma-informed approach helps teachers and school personnel consider how trauma impacts learning and behaviors of the children and adolescents in their classroom.

UNC Greensboro’s Department of Counseling and Educational Development (CED) recently completed year three of a five-year federal grant, partnering with Rockingham County Schools (RCS), a high need, rural district. Drs. Carrie Wachter Morris and L. DiAnne Borders have spearheaded this grant, partnering with RCS to integrate trauma-informed approaches at multiple levels.

Integrating trauma-informed approaches in the schools started with counselor training. CED faculty have integrated trauma-informed approaches within the master’s and doctoral curricula in multiple ways: how school counselors work with K-12 students, how they engage and conceptualize students’ school-based challenges using a trauma-informed lens. In addition, doctoral students learn principles and practices of trauma informed. As part of the federal grant, to date 25 school counseling students have been placed in paid internships in elementary, middle, and high schools in RCS – with many of these students hired into permanent positions after completing their degree requirements. Arionna Wilkerson, pictured above, first served as an intern as part of the partnership, and then was employed as a school counselor in RCS. Arionna is now working to expand her ability to support trauma-related needs in the schools as a doctoral student in CED.

The CED-RCS collaboration also has involved opportunities for the master’s-level school counseling interns to extend their learning by working with the RCS Behavioral Emotional Therapeutic Intervention Assistance (BETA) team. The students also have worked with Impact through Innovation, a division of the UNCG School of Education, to tackle real-world challenges of their students and schools. They have designed innovative interventions using KickBox, an innovation toolkit designed by Adobe, as well as resources available in the SELF Design Studio, a Makerspace housed in the School of Education. 

The grant also includes interventions for K-12 school personnel, who can enter the school with trauma. Multiple CED faculty have provided research support to assess the needs of RCS faculty and staff, particularly given the challenges the pandemic for faculty and staff in their work as well as their personal lives. For example, a mixed-methods needs assessment for all faculty, staff, and administrators targeted their needs and identified supports that would be most beneficial to RCS personnel.

Based on the needs assessment, CED soon will partner with RCS to provide mental health support to RCS faculty and staff via telehealth. Starting this fall, master’s and doctoral students in the Nicholas A. Vacc Counseling and Consulting Clinic, under supervision of CED faculty, will begin to provide individual and/or small group support services to members of the RCS community.

Through this ongoing partnership with RCS, CED faculty and students have connected in ways that benefitted both CED and RCS students, faculty, and staff.