Title

Help Wanted: Advocating for Youth-At-Risk in Transition Using a Comprehensive Wellness Approach

Focused Area

Improving School Climate for Youth-At-Risk

Relevance to Focused Area

The Covenant BodyMind Initiative Advocacy Project (CBMIAP) gives direct student intervention to youth-at-risk utilizing a comprehensive wellness approach. The advocate and student work together to help the student navigate various transitions in order to reach their full potential. The intervention is integrated in the school day, thus avoiding many afterschool distractions. CBMIAP improves the school climate for youth by offering individual and group life skills development and advocate-to-student intervention for youth-at-risk. Working directly with students improves instructional time, reduces referrals and school suspensions. Teaching students reaches their peers, reaching their peer impacts the school community.

Primary Strand

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance to Primary Strand

The heart of making positive outcomes is to make healthy choices. This program provides experiential learning activities that address the social/emotional needs of the student. A comprehensive wellness approach looks at decision-making, coping strategies, developing a sense of identity and belonging and feelings of competence. Therefore, when a social/emotional need is present, the advocate can bridge the student and school in order to facilitate a positive outcome for the student.

Brief Program Description

The objective of this presentation is to introduce a comprehensive approach as an intervention when working with youth-at-risk and their various transitions in the school setting. The session will include a conceptual overview of comprehensive wellness, demonstrate experiential take home activities addressing such topics as identity, safety and relationships. Anyone working with youth-at-risk will benefit from this innovative approach.

Summary

The iceberg is an appropriate analogy to describe intervening with youth-at-risk. Often what we see and treat is the tip of the iceberg but so much of what is influencing behaviors lies beneath the surface. While many are able to successfully navigate the often difficult terrain of adolescence, others experience problem behaviors, such as delinquency, substance abuse and a failure to thrive in their lives (Jenson, Alter, Nicotera, Anthony, & Forrest-Bank, 2012).

Transition during adolescence may pose particular challenges. Schools are overwhelmed and often lacking in resources to meet the transitional needs of the student (Morgan, Salomon, Plotkin, & Cohen, 2014), whether transitioning from middle to high school and beyond or reentering a traditional high school from an alternative setting. Students may need an advocate to help ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

CBMIAP is a program that supplies advocates for students to ensure that the student’s academic as well as social/emotional needs are being met. Direct student and school intervention allows CBMIAP advocates to bridge the distance between the student in transition and the school potentially resulting in a mutually beneficial outcome in which the students are more successful in the classroom and the school is able to increase instructional time for youth-at-risk student populations. CBMIAP uses a comprehensive wellness approach to examine healthy decision-making. Comprehensive wellness is the state of being in good health in all aspects of life. This integration of body, mind, emotions, and behaviors helps one make a conscience choice toward a lifetime of health and wellness. This type of intervention focuses on promoting positive behavior rather than eliminating negative behavior.

The session will explain the advocate relationship with students, give a conceptual overview of comprehensive wellness, demonstrate experiential activities and provide classroom resources.

Evidence

The need for this project is evident in the statistics provided by the Texas Department of Juvenile Justice. Their results indicate that 90% of students in the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) qualify as at-risk and close to half (46%) will return to their alternative education setting within a year (Texas Juvenile Justice Department, 2012). Students face challenges in the areas of poor academic and social/emotional skills, special education needs, and the inability to develop an identity as a learner (Guay, Larose & Boivin, 2004 & Osher, Sidana & Kelly, 2008).

Currently, a research project is underway to collect qualitative data from education stakeholders on the effectiveness of the advocate to student intervention. Early anecdotal evidence suggests that students are benefitting from the intervention. Further results will be available as this project progresses. However, the truest test of effectiveness rests in the fact that schools express appreciation for the program and continue to utilize advocates for their students.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Gregory D. Johnston is the associate director of the Covenant BodyMind Initiative. His responsibilities include curriculum development, program delivery and grant and conference submissions. Dr. Johnston writes and presents on comprehensive wellness issues, specifically in an adolescent student population. He proudly helped write the first Texas Education Agency approved wellness course in Texas education history, Comprehensive Wellness I & II, as well as Covenant BodyMind Initiative Advocacy Project At-Risk Module. His research interests include wellness development in adolescents and emerging adults, as well as advocating for youth-at-risk. Prior to working at Texas Tech University, Dr. Johnston served as a legislative assistant for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. His legislative responsibilities included health and education issues.

Amy Onofre is a unit coordinator for the Covenant BodyMind Initiative. She graduated from Texas Tech with a Masters in Counselor Education. Amy is currently working towards receiving her doctorate in Counselor Education with a focus on comprehensive wellness and youth-at-risk issues. Amy helped write Comprehensive Wellness II and the Covenant BodyMind Initiative Advocacy Project At-Risk Module. Amy plans to become a licensed professional counselor. She believes that practicing self-care is key to living a fulfilling life. The Covenant BodyMind Initiative provides the skills to begin this process.

Linn Walker is a registered nurse with experience in critical care nursing as well as public health nursing, specifically school nursing, having spent thirteen years with the public school system. She is also a Certified Wellness Program Coordinator. Presently, she is Director of The Covenant BodyMind Initiative, collaboration with the Texas Tech University Center for Adolescent Resiliency and the Covenant Health System, to address the issues of weight related disorders. Linn helped write the Texas Education Agency innovative courses, Comprehensive Wellness I and II, and the Covenant BodyMind Initiative Advocacy Project At-Risk Module. She is a regular presenter at school staff development programs and professional conferences.

Start Date

10-23-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

10-23-2016 11:00 AM

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Oct 23rd, 10:00 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

Help Wanted: Advocating for Youth-At-Risk in Transition Using a Comprehensive Wellness Approach

The objective of this presentation is to introduce a comprehensive approach as an intervention when working with youth-at-risk and their various transitions in the school setting. The session will include a conceptual overview of comprehensive wellness, demonstrate experiential take home activities addressing such topics as identity, safety and relationships. Anyone working with youth-at-risk will benefit from this innovative approach.