EAST ORANGE, NJ — Stress and trauma can take a toll on anyone, including children. Unlike many adults, children don’t necessarily have the skills to manage stress and trauma, which can take a toll on them mentally. In an effort to help troubled and struggling children, the Foundation for Educational Administration, the professional learning division of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, has announced that 26 schools — including East Orange’s Patrick F. Healy Middle School — will take part in its Healing-Centered Engagement initiative.
According to a press release, the initiative will be funded by grants in excess of $580,000, where lead partners will create free programs, including training and coaching, to help teachers, administrators, staff, families and community groups in this diverse cohort of 26 schools to introduce a Healing-Centered Engagement model to address adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, and trauma.
According to the FEA, ACEs are stressful or traumatic events — including abuse, neglect, household substance use and parental separation — that affect children’s brain architecture and can have negative, lifelong effects on health and well-being. In addition to stressful or traumatic events, some children also face exposure to chronic, toxic stress from historical and ongoing traumas due to systematic racism and poverty. ACEs and trauma can inhibit a child’s ability to learn, develop language skills, create healthy attachments and form relationships.
In addition, New Jersey Health Initiatives will provide $75,000 that will directly fund the Mental Health First Aid component of the project. As the lead agency and convener for the initiative, NJPSA/FEA will partner with the New Jersey Education Association, the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, the N.J. Department of Education, the Office of Resilience in the N.J. Department of the Children and Families, the Burke Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Princeton Area Community Foundation and New Jersey Health Initiatives. Support and collaboration from the N.J. Pandemic Relief Fund will bolster schools in these uniquely challenging times and provide a foundation to strengthen the educational system.
East Orange Mayor Ted Green discussed the critical need for this initiative for the children at Patrick F. Healy Middle School, as well as for children at middle schools across the country.
“It is well documented that middle school can be an extremely challenging transitional period for young people, and those with underlying trauma are especially susceptible to the dangers of stress,” Green said on April 11. “This initiative will supplement the great work that the administrative leadership team, teachers and staff at Patrick F. Healy Middle School have been doing to address students’ overall well-being and support lifelong educational and personal success.”