New program aims to help students cope with trauma

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Poverty, domestic violence, neglect, bullying. They're things experienced by many school kids, especially in the urban core. Now some Kansas City, Missouri schools are testing a new program to help children better learn and cope when things get tough.

Beth Sarver, Trauma Outreach Coordinator at Truman Medical Center Behavioral Health, says that trauma comes in many forms, and not all of them are obvious.

"Chronic child abuse, neglect, being raised in a household with just one parent," said Sarver. "Being bullied, being told you're stupid or worthless."

On Sunday morning Sarver spoke at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City, Missouri about what are called Trauma Sensitive Schools. They’re schools with a mission to help children feel safe to learn at school.

"Our kids are experiencing a mental shutdown in many ways," said Sarver, who says that as someone who experienced trauma as a child herself it's her calling to try and help other kids heal. “Our goal is to infuse resilience building education into the way that we educate.”

Sarver is helping test a pilot program in some Kansas City, Missouri public schools.

“The goal is a learning environment that's more creative, that's more able to look at the stuff that's happening and find the good,” said Sarver. She says that the program works by building stronger children, and that Trauma Sensitive Schools see higher graduation rates with fewer students suspended and expelled.

Sarver says in their Kansas City, Missouri pilot schools more than 95% of students qualify for free and reduced lunches. She said extreme poverty is one of the biggest causes of stress, violence and neglect which leads to trauma for many children.

“When we dwell upon resilience as opposed to the trauma then we build more of that resilience and more of a consciousness of resilience, which is what we want for our kids and teachers," said Sarver.