Fostering Resilient Futures Through Trauma-Informed School Programs

Synergy Services, a conglomerate of interconnected programs that has served Clay, Platte, and Jackson County, has been making a profound impact on the lives of individuals and families for over 52 years of dedicated service. At the heart of Synergy’s mission is a commitment to providing comprehensive services for vulnerable populations. From shelters for homeless youth to resiliency centers with creative arts programs, clinics, dental services, and mental health support, Synergy addresses a wide spectrum of needs. A crucial aspect of Synergy’s work is its collaboration with the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County. In fact, Synergy Services is one of the inaugural programs funded by the CSF! Robin Winner, Co-Executive Director of Synergy Services, shared the profound influence of CSF funding on their school-based initiatives and how the partnership has played a pivotal role in expanding the reach and impact of Synergy’s programs.

This engagement involves creating access to on-site therapy and resiliency building in several charter schools across Jackson County. Recognizing that schools can historically be challenging for students who have experienced trauma, Ms. Winner shared how their school-based initiatives team worked with educators and administration to implement trauma-informed strategies and utilize diverse curriculums to nurture a supportive atmosphere. “Oftentimes, the trauma young individuals have experienced becomes a significant factor affecting their ability to succeed in school,” explained Ms. Winner. “This impact extends not only to the students but also to educators. Both teachers and students bring their unique traumas to the learning environment and it’s important to address that. We adopt a brain science perspective; our focus is on helping students comprehend how their brains function, enabling them to engage in mindfulness practices and effectively manage stress.”

Cassidey Collins, Vice President of School-Based Integrative Services, is deeply immersed in this work. She shared how the collaboration with CSF has allowed Synergy to move beyond one-time programs, such as bullying prevention, to establish ongoing relationships with schools, offering consistent and quality support to students, teachers, and administrators. This includes funding for 60 staff members who are dedicated to Synergy’s school-based programs. 

The stories Ms. Collins receives from parents and administrators really show the positive impact of Synergy Services’ School-Based Integrative Services. She shared recent input from a school administrator who expressed how the Resiliency Specialist from Syngery had integrated into staff, jumped in to support staff and students alike, and that his implementation of Syngery’s MindUP curriculum was invaluable. 

Making Mental Health Accessible and Consistent

The partnership with CSF has enabled Synergy to embed mental health services directly within the school setting, making counseling more accessible to students. “There are so many barriers to mental health care and clinical therapy. So, to be able to meet the students where they are at, and where they spend so much of their time—at school—is such a benefit. Having programs like the ones we can offer through our partnership with the CSF decreases the stresses of transportation and income barriers.”

In 2022, Synergy’s School-Based Integrative Services reached out to 2,346 students in Jackson County charter schools. They did this through things like classroom sessions, small groups, and one-on-one chats. They also provided individual therapy to 75 students and helped 46 families with family therapy. The numbers reveal just a part of how Synergy is making a real impact, building resilience, and creating stronger connections in our schools.

One parent shared how their child, who used to struggle with anger and breaking things, got connected to therapy in school when they couldn’t afford it elsewhere. The child soon gained skills that helped him regulate his emotions and control his behavior—even when he was experiencing anger.  His parents shared how they received fewer calls from school and how much they appreciated witnessing their child improve at anger control and emotional regulation. They even shared how the child’s interactions with peers and teachers changed and flourished in ways that improved his experience at school tremendously. Such stories are a testament to how early intervention and support can change the entire life of a child!

The Rationale for Further Support 

Despite the success stories and positive outcomes, the challenges persist. According to Ms. Winner, there is a continual need for resources to address the ever-growing demand for support services. She shared a great burden to educate the community about how investing in such programs is not just a social responsibility, but a wise financial decision. Referencing sociological and financial research, Ms. Winner laid out how investing in prevention services and creating support structures for youth experiencing homelessness isn’t just community service, but is slated to generate returns that benefit communities financially. 

Synergy Services is an exemplar of interconnected and wrap-around services breaking the cycle of homelessness, domestic violence, and mental health challenges. Through their innovative programming and the vital support of the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County, they are not just changing lives but creating a ripple effect that resonates across communities, making them safer, healthier, and more resilient for the future. “We often say we help people become safe today and then strong tomorrow. And as we help people become strong, then they help other people, and it becomes a contagious thing when people really do end up caring for each other and making a difference.”

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