A message from the president…
During the 2020/2021 school year, 21 4th year students were identified as being impacted by incarceration. William Cofield graduated 16 of them, which speaks volumes to the needs of our students. Without Cofield, this group of students would not have graduated with their cohort. Notably, an additional 9 students, (not included in the 21 count), also identified as having an incarcerated parent, withdrew to home school.
For our current 21/22 year, I have identified 108 FCHS students and 11 WHHS students who are currently impacted by incarceration.
Parental incarceration is one of the ten identified Adverse Childhood Experiences. It is often the root of the issue in regard to dropout, substance use, poverty, mental health, and future justice system involvement for our students. It is also a significant factor causing our children to be at risk for abuse and neglect as well as a prime target for exploitation by predators. Incarceration is often a generational cycle because our youth do not have hope for their future. They cannot see a positive, healthy lifestyle because they do not know what that looks like; they have no point of reference for it. The thought of graduation, college, and a career is like climbing Mt. Everest to them; if they can even see Mt. Everest for the fog, (trauma/survival mode) they are living in.
We are all aware that prevention starts at the elementary level. This district has implemented KRUSH- Kids Rising Up through Support and Healing, a preK – 12th grade social emotional curriculum designed for students impacted by incarceration in all of our elementary and middle schools, with the exception of ELV, (projected to begin this fall). KRUSH is listed in our Comprehensive District Improvement Plan as an activity to improve our graduation rate. We currently have over 150 students participating in KRUSH. I anticipate this number almost doubling in the fall, (and am working to build capacity). Sidenote: Over 450 educators across the state have been trained in KRUSH.
We piloted our first KRUSH programs fall of 2019. There are 14 rising FCHS 9th graders who have been in KRUSH for 3 years now. As a continuum of support for students, the Wanda Joyce Robinson Foundation provides a High School Outreach coordinator, a paid contract position. Each coordinator has a caseload of 20 youth. This person provides weekly mentoring, (multiple contacts a week), and small group opportunities- life skills classes, field trips, etc. This program is being aligned to Positive Youth Development through the University of Kentucky this summer and will be evidence-based. WJRF is financially committed to the hiring of as many High School Outreach coordinators as we need, in Frankfort.
This level of support is unparalleled across the state. I truly believe that our school district will see a significant change at the high school level, (in behavior, attendance, and academics), and will be an example to other school districts. Our rising 9th graders will have the social and emotional skills they need to cope with the challenges they face and live in each day, and they will have the weekly mentorship and community support they need to be successful. This would NOT be possible without the AMAZING, devoted school staff who give of their time; their heart; and their mental energy to lead such momentous groups.