2 Pilot programs work to address the needs of students and families in Wake County

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Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Wake Co. pilot programs work to address needs of students, families
"We are breaking down these barriers and these artificial separations between home life and school life," Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County and Wake County Public School System are helping students and families to navigate through post-pandemic challenges with two pilot programs.

The programs -- which were launched last September -- are called Neighborhood Networking and Student Engagement Team, also known as SET.

They are offered across nine elementary schools in the county.

County and school district leaders provided an update on the success and impact of these programs on Tuesday at Southeast Raleigh Elementary School.

"We are breaking down these barriers and these artificial separations between home life and school life," Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said. "Because we know that our kids bring the problems they experience at home into school, and they bring the problem and the challenges they experience in school back home."

The American Rescue Plan Act funded both programs. Neighborhood Networks was allocated $1.25 million, and the SET program was allocated nearly $2 million.

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Student Engagement Team

SET works to meet the post-pandemic challenges of students by addressing a child's social and mental health needs.

With one-on-one coaching, student strengths and needs can be identified. This helps to set goals to increase student success.

"These programs are designed to put the whole job together and have a comprehensive, robust approach helping students address their needs," Calabria said.

So far, SET is offered at Centennial Middle School, Durant Middle School, North Garner Middle School, and Walnut Creek Elementary School.

North Garner Middle School Assistant Principal Juanita Velazquez said the needs of students and their families aren't a quick fix.

"We are making sure that all of our kids have the best possible outcomes and it's not easy work. It's not work that's going to magically happen overnight," Velazquez said. "It's one of those marathon races and I'm just glad we are all in this together."

According to Wake County, 86 families have been referred for SET coaching.

More than 100 individual resource connections have been made for SET families, and 322 adults have attended SET workshops to increase skills in working with youth.

The needs in Wake County are great, Toshiba Rice said. She is the school board member who represents District Four.

"It's important to remember every family's situation is unique and many require comprehensive and individualized services to help them overcome the challenges they face," Rice said.

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Neighborhood Networking

Neighborhood Networking works with social workers embedded in the schools to identify concerns such as food, housing, and job insecurity.

The program is offered in Adams Elementary School, Forest Pines Elementary School, Forestville Road Elementary School, North Ridge Elementary School and Southeast Raleigh Elementary School.

Both programs can help ease some of the heavy lifting from school leaders, Wake County Health and Human Services Director Nannette Bowler said.

"There's a lot put on our schools that are beyond the academics that they are having to hold the ball with, and we can't have that continue if we want to have fruitful outcomes for our families," she said.

School Board Member Rice emphasized the impact of the programs during the update meeting.

"We know that students who have a stable home life are much more likely to succeed in school and beyond," Rice said. "That's why supporting families, with their physical financial and mental health needs, while also strengthening the connections, between school and home are essential."