It has been four years since the Cobb County School District received an $8.5-million Safe School Schools/Healthy Students federal grant, one of the largest discretionary grants ever received by the District. The grant supports the Success for All Students project, a community-driven initiative that provides enhanced student support services to the 35 schools in the Acworth, Kennesaw and Powder Springs areas. Since 2008, the District has formally partnered with the Cobb Community Services Board, Cobb County Juvenile Court and Cobb County Sheriff’s Office to deliver services such as school-based mental health, truancy intervention, juvenile court diversion, evidence-based parenting programs, drug and alcohol prevention as well as student mentoring. Using programs and services that have a proven track record of success, as well as strategies for both prevention and intervention, Success for All Students has helped reduce risk factors that come between children of all ages and their ability to learn.
The Success for All Students project is now in its “no-cost extension” year, a time-period that allows the project to utilize carryover funding to meet unmet project goals and objectives. According to Success for All Students project manager Matt Yancey, this year is critical for program sustainability. “Although this is our last year of funding, our partners are committed to institutionalizing these efforts,” said Yancey. Most Success for All Students services are delivered in the school setting, a natural place for support programming.
“Social and emotional well-being is inextricably connected to overall success in school. Research is clear that when students come to school with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, they earn lower grades, have increased absenteeism, and most significantly, are more likely to drop out. By partnering with other child-serving agencies and linking new and existing resources, these coordinated, cooperative efforts are producing real results for our students.”
Since 2008, the project’s local evaluation team at Georgia State University reports the targeted service area has seen a 47 percent decrease in fights, a 33 percent decrease of students on juvenile probation as well as a 22 percent decrease in the number of 15-day absences.
Tod Citron, CEO of the Cobb Community Services Board, says the Success for All Students project has helped spur new ideas regarding child and adolescent mental health service provision. “By taking service delivery directly to the child in the school setting increases their chances for improvement and success in several performance areas," said Citron. As of the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the project has provided over 800 students with individualized, school-based mental health programming.
The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office has also played a critical role in the project, assisting with drug and alcohol prevention programming and truancy abatement efforts. The project currently supports a full-time Deputy Sheriff. This position works directly with the school social workers and other Success for All Students staff. Dr. Paulette Herbert, supervisor for the School Social Work Department and in-kind project director for Success for All Students says this position has been crucial for her department. “Collaborating with law enforcement makes sense on many levels. Truancy and absenteeism is not just a school issue. It’s a community issue. By providing intervention, we are steering children away from potential delinquent activity and possible educational failure,” said Dr. Herbert.
Yancey says the project is implementing various changes in the 2012-2013 school year to assist with program sustainability, specifically around school-based mental health.
“Schools across the country are recognizing the important role they play in all areas of a student’s life ranging from academics, physical health, social, emotional and behavioral wellbeing. When schools partner with communities and families to coordinate services, improve practices and create better policies, outcomes for our youth improve,” said Yancey.
The Federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative has funded more than 365 urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas nationwide since 1999. This grant is the result of a unique collaboration among the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice and was created in response to rising concerns about youth violence and school safety. For more information on the Federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, visit www.sshs.samhsa.gov.
For more information on Success for All Students programs and services, contact the project office at 678-594-7582 or visit www.cobbsuccessforall.com.
Editor's note: This release was prepared by the Cobb County School District Communications Department.