More than ever before, the subject of mental health is being broached from all angles. Poudre School District Integrated Service staff are wholeheartedly accepting the challenge of helping students live a healthy lifestyle. A team of highly educated, experienced Integrated Services staff are hard at work, building relationships and advocating for students with emotional needs. One group working with students mental health needs are our School Social Workers, a dedicated group focused on understanding the whole students.
Lead Social Worker Derrick Searle is at the forefront of school social work. As a Northern Colorado native, Searle’s investment in the Fort Collins community goes deep. After receiving both a Bachelors and a Masters degrees in Social Work, Searle went on to earn a Masters degree in Education with administrator licensure from Colorado State University. He has worked for 7 of his 19 years as a social worker in PSD.
“It sounds cheesy but I wanted to make a difference,” shares Searle. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities for social workers. With 9 school social workers and 2 career coaches, each school in PSD is served. The goal of a social worker is helping people help themselves. They are advocates, encouragers as well as accountability. They are the people to notice and point out the good things students are doing no matter what size accomplishment that may be. They get to know students and what their struggles are. They work with students on understanding their emotions and how to regulate them. They look at the complete story of a student’s life and the best way to reach them.
Searle says there are things that ring true for all student. Behavior is a form of communication, whether it is conscious or subconscious. Student academics and emotions are deeply connected. Kids often ask for love in the most unlovable ways. Defiance is typically a result of stressors that underlie the behavior. Kids want to be good, they want to be loved and cared for and to have friends.
As a team, PSD mental health staff work passionately with a zero tolerance policy related to hurtful behavior, and work toward a better understanding of each individual. Social workers work together with administrators, school resource officers, counselors, deans and teachers on education and advocacy. Together they work to understand why a student is responding the way they are and what the deeper rooted cause may be. They are then able to provide support or a consequence to directly address the why of the problem not just the manifestation.
Derrick Searle says that Poudre High School, where he works, has adopted a great culture of inclusivity, openness to new intervention ideas and collaboration. In December of 2015 the PHS community put together a community event addressing mental health. PHS staff came together to address some heavy concerns facing students.
“There is something magical in the intersection of people connecting,” says Searle. This is why he, and his team of social workers have chosen a path of genuine investment into the lives of student in PSD.
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521