Canon City High School is struggling with a mental health program – Canon City Daily Record

EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the second in a three-part series, Teaching for Life, about the Canyon School District.

Plato, the famous Greek philosopher and founder of the world’s first higher education institution, said, “Don’t force your children to go their own way, because they were created for a time different from your own.”

Children have always needed the guidance of their parents and elders to educate them, and school and district systems have begun to explore ways to help create productive and talented adults.

The Canon City School District had the opportunity when in 2019 it was awarded a grant for the social and emotional well-being of its collective schools. A subsidiary of the Colorado Education Initiative, Youth Connections to the District was presented as a kind of guide for Canyon City schools to design the psychological well-being of students.

Canon City High School has designed a unique program of its own.

According to CCMS teacher Tanna Miles, the goals of the program are “placed around this specific ecosystem that is only concentric circles and it is to create a school environment that is physically and emotionally full of trust and rich in relationships.”

Along with the school districts of County Mesa, Sheridan and Alamosa, Canon City has been allowed to develop programs and outlets for students to create healthy school cultures.

“Children need to know that there is an adult out there who they can trust and talk to,” said CCMS director Jesse Oliver. “They’re not just another child, they’re not just another number and they’re important to someone (in school).”

In addition, in the coming years, CCMS teachers and educators hope to involve more parents than standard parent / teacher conferences and open doors as a means of creating a unified school environment.

“We want to understand what the needs of modern parents are,” Miles said. “If you have the opportunity to attend PTO meetings virtually or with COVID, it opens up a whole new world of ways to connect outside of school with our community.”

The program, built for CCMS, is designed as a multi-level support that includes surveys to learn more about students and the implementation of daily counseling classes. After the cancellation of the fourth quarter of the 2019-20 school year, due to COVID-19, it took some time for the programs to start.

The 2021-22 academic year is the first official year for the use of both questionnaires and counseling sessions, and the grant was awarded for three years.

Counseling classes at CCMS will be used from 2021 and will take the first 15 minutes each day. The school’s 370 students were evenly distributed among each teacher and expert in the building, and classes from 10 to 19 were built. Through surveys conducted among students at the beginning of the school year, the school culture suffered from a lack of accepted coordination. In other words, the children felt distant from each other.

Counseling classes are designed to provide a small and close experience between students and the teacher or paraprofessional who manages the class. The smaller size of the classes and a range of fun activities allow teachers to get more involved and familiarize each student.

“We can (can) actually redefine our culture to be more inclusive,” Miles said.

Two simple examples come in the form of CCMS para-professional counseling class Jolene Phillips and Miles counseling class. After sitting in both classes, the activities were light and fun with a foundation of learning and respect.

For example, Phillips asked his students to stand on either side of the room, and after asking a question, the students either walked out of the room or stayed in their place – finally showing how they were similar and different. Questions from ‘Who loves Frosted Flakes?’ to more complex ones, such as, “Have you ever been ridiculed for your appearance?” or ‘Have you ever broken someone’s heart?’

In Miles class, eighth graders were required to choose an online challenge and film it themselves. Although the class had only been together for a few weeks, they chose a viral “mannequin chalice” and paired it with a popular song. Despite the figures resembling a statue that were peppers in the room, a smile could be seen on every face.

“They’re a kind of very emotional creature,” Miles said. “Our focus should really be on the whole child, teaching the whole child.”

As a final form of counseling classes, games are held between different groups at the end of the year. They are divided into elements: fire, wind, water and earth, as well as grouped into different levels and all compete for the Falcon Cup and the Stick Cup. The two-hour conference becomes fun and exciting and the students continue to develop their relationships with each other.

“There’s some pride that makes it indoors,” Oliver said.

After a year of implementing consultation classes and year-end competitions, some improvements have already been observed.

The Youth Truth Survey, conducted in 2021, shows the change from 2020 onwards. For example, the percentage of students dropped from 57 percent to 50 percent. In addition, 9% of students said they had seriously considered suicide attempts, which is 11% less than 11 years ago. Overall, students also had less stress, which was 3% less than last year.

Progress is slow, but figures show that change continues.

As the transition to high school approaches for many students, CCMS staff hopes to further provide students with ways to develop mutually beneficial interpersonal relationships not only with each other but also with their empowered personalities.

“We work to raise children, to help children succeed, to own their behavior and learning, and to have a positive and respectful attitude,” Miles said. “It was a good place to start.”

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