In Feature Stories, Success Stories

A growing relationship between Franklinton Preparatory Academy in Columbus and The Village Network is producing positive outcomes, and it has literally given one student a
new lease on life.

In the fall of 2018, Jenny, 16, was struggling with some personal issues. She knew of Chelsea Arnold, The Village Network’s counselor assigned to Franklinton, because she has an office at the school and is there every day, all day.

Jenny had approached “Miss Chelsea” to speak with her. She wanted to share some of the stresses with which she had been dealing. Jenny decided to sign up for full-time counseling with the hope of becoming better able to deal with life’s stressors.

That one decision on Jenny’s part might have literally saved her life.

A couple weeks later after meeting with Arnold, Jenny hit a dark spot: She wanted to end her life. Thankfully, she had the courage to approach her counselor and be honest about the dangerous thoughts running through her head.

Arnold immediately reported the issue, and told Jenny she would be going to the hospital. Arnold made the necessary notifications, called hospital personnel to explain what was happening, and let Jenny and her family know what to expect with the hospitalization process. Jenny spent about four or five days in the hospital, and after she returned to school, she resumed her counseling sessions with Arnold.

When Jenny first approached Arnold, she said, “I didn’t want to talk to anybody. Then, after talking with Miss Chelsea, she said everything we talked about would be confidential.” However, Arnold made it clear to her in the beginning if something serious came up involving her safety, then it would have to be reported.

The two have not been working together for a long time, but they have built a good rapport. “We started working together in November, but we have a different dynamic (at Franklinton) because I am here all the time,” Arnold said.

“Talking with Miss Chelsea feels good,” Jenny said. “I can get stuff off my chest that I can’t talk to other people about.” Jenny added she feels she can be open and honest and doesn’t have to worry about what she shares.

A turning point in the relationship came while Jenny was still in the hospital. “I realized (Miss Chelsea) cared for me when she came to visit me in the hospital,” Jenny said. She jumped up and gave her counselor a big hug.

“I definitely have seen her grow,” Arnold said. “She knows to come up and talk if she has any issues or before she blows up.”

“Before working with Miss Chelsea, I was always upset, always thinking things, and I couldn’t focus,” Jenny said. “Now, I am more relieved and not as upset as much. She helps me and gives me advice. It’s so much better.”

There was the one time when Jenny was in Arnold’s office because she was worked up about another student. Jenny was trying hard to calm down. But, she just couldn’t focus on anything else. She was fixated on the student. While bolting out of the office to confront the student might not have been the best decision, Jenny did flash a little sign of growth: She apologized to Arnold before the fact, not after.

The two can laugh about the incident today because Jenny’s growth was again on display a little bit later… when she did calm down. In fact, she brought the other student to Arnold’s office so they could work on the issue.

“It’s a cool culture here,” Arnold said. “All the kids are self-referred, so no one is angry to see me. I can walk into class, in front of their peers, and say, ‘Time for counseling,’ and they’re OK with that. The kids are open and accepting.”

The culture is something Principal Marty Griffith and his team have been working on. While they understood trauma and adverse childhood experiences, the relationship with Arnold and The Village Network has helped them achieve a greater understanding.  “I think primarily, we are smarter and more knowledgeable in dealing with students experiencing trauma or that have experienced trauma,” Griffith said. “What Chelsea and The Village Network allowed us to see, and what we intuited, is when kids are dealing with difficult situations outside the classroom, it manifests itself in the classroom.”

The partnership has better equipped the Franklinton Prep’s staff with tools to help the students, Griffith said. “Instead of traditional top-down approach, we are helping students maneuver through difficult times and keeping classrooms focused on learning.”

“I think primarily, we are smarter and more knowledgeable in dealing with students experiencing trauma or that have experienced trauma.” – Marty Griffith

Students who are going through rough times find a way to make it to school, but once there, they are detached, Griffith said. The traditional way of dealing with this can be confrontational, which is the wrong thing to do with someone who has a short fuse, he added.

The Village Network follows the Neurosequential Model of TherapeuticsTM (NMT), an approach that integrates core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to help therapists and educators work with children and families.  This has helped everyone at the academy, Griffith said. “Rather than guessing our way through this, it helped us develop a format to help kids we suspect are dealing with trauma.”

Prior to the partnership with The Village Network, Griffith said the leadership at Franklinton Preparatory Academy had been aware of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). “We tried to muddle through it the best we could, but The Village Network helped us develop a common vocabulary.”

This has led to a reframing of sorts. Instead of saying a student is having a good or bad day, it is regulated or disregulated. Instead of crappy situations, the word trauma is used. Instead of administrative referrals, Griffith and his team speak of interventions. They are using counseling-based and clinical-based terminology instead of the jargon from a traditional school bureaucracy.

As Arnold and The Village Network aid the school’s staff and student body, it is helping those in leadership roles to be viewed as “loving, caring adults who have relationships with young people,” Griffith said. As the staff becomes more trauma-informed, they can better help the students moving forward.

And, Griffith is happy knowing if the situation proves to be more than the school can handle, he can turn to Arnold, because she is there every day, all day.

As for Jenny, she is hopeful her counseling will be only for a short term. But, like Griffith, she knows if she ever has any issue, she can go to see “Miss Chelsea.” 

(Featured image above (l to r): David Hargrave, Amber McVay, Elden & Melissa Reeves.}

For more information about outpatient behavioral health services provided in schools by The Village Network, please call 800-638-3232 or visit thevillagenetwork.org/school-based-treatment.

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