MASSENA – The Massena Central School District began the year with social workers as part of the staff, and Community Schools Director Kristin E. Colarusso-Martin said they have stayed busy.
The social workers were added using federal stimulus funds, and the district also has a partnership with Citizen Advocates to provide a counselor.
“Our social workers have been very, very busy, and so has our Citizen Advocates counselor,” she said.
School social workers have met with nearly 150 students throughout the district this year, she said.
“They’re busy. They’re working with groups. They’re working with individuals, ”Ms. Colarusso-Martin said.
She provided figures that show the elementary school caseload between Jefferson, Madison and Nightengale elementary schools was 46 students, the JW Leary Junior High School caseload was 36 students, and the Massena Central High School caseload was 66 students.
They have also worked with 70 students in foster care for a Christmas program and oversaw groups like holiday grief support and anxiety support. The social workers have also made home visits to assist students with attendance issues.
A Citizen Advocates counselor has also been in the district. Citizen Advocates offers school-based counseling services for youth who experience behavioral, emotional or substance abuse problems that impact school performance. Counselors have provided individual and group counseling to children who are depressed and at risk for self-destructive behavior. Common issues they deal with include loss, trauma, violent environments, substance abuse, family conflict and incarceration or death of parents.
Services are provided on school sites during school hours. Parents and students may request services, and school administrators refer students.
“Our Citizen Advocates counselor is working with just the high school and junior high students. She has a caseload of 55, ”Ms. Colarusso-Martin said.
The junior high has a caseload of 21 students, while the high school has a caseload of 34 students.
She said the district has submitted an application to the state Department of Health to expand Citizen Advocates counseling to the three elementary schools, “but it’s moving really slowly.”
Ms. Colarusso-Martin is also involved with a new effort called Project Raiders.
“Project Raiders at the high school is a student-led organization that works to help the school climate and community,” said Logan Dobbins, the student representative to the district’s board of education.
“I’ve been working a lot with Project Raiders and trying to change the school climate,” Ms. Colarusso-Martin said.
Mr. Dobbins said he and four students had met with Ms. Colarusso-Martin and high school Principal Alan C. Oliver.
“They want to bring safe spaces into the building and to combat mental health issues and help kids collect themselves and cool off throughout the day,” he said. “It showed the faculty and staff some sad stories that happened within our school.”