program highlight


Kids Rising Up through Support and Healing is a PreK-12th grade group concept aligned to state and national standards. KRUSH was developed by School Counselor, Jalina Wheeler and Instructional Assistant, Kristi Whittaker from Russell, Kentucky. The KRUSH concept can be used in any school district, in all states.

WJRF paid for both ladies to travel to Frankfort and provide two trainings, (July and October), for a total of 39 educators.  Frankfort Independent; Franklin County, and Madison, Henry, Owen and Bullitt counties attended the training. 

Training Kentucky's Educators

K.R.U.S.H. was created for students who are dealing with parents, guardians and family members that are or have been incarcerated.

The goals of this group are to provide support for the students through several avenues. We offer a small group setting where the students can be open with their concerns, worries, and positive thoughts as they relate to their incarcerated loved one. We provide lessons for the students that show them how to deal with the emotions that come with having a parent incarcerated.

We work on self-esteem, positive decision-making skills, and career opportunities. Our goal is to provide students the skills they need to be able to rise above their circumstances and be positive, productive members of society.

In 2019, pilot KRUSH groups began in Franklin County at Collins Lane Elementary, Hearn Elementary and Elkhorn Middle School. Fifty-onestudents are currently participating in KRUSH at these three schools. Additional programs at Second Street/Frankfort Middle; Frankfort High; Franklin County High School; Elkhorn Elementary will begin in 2020.

What are people saying?

“In today’s society with grandparents, aunts and uncles raising children while the parents are absent from the home due to drug addiction, incarceration, or anything that keeps them away and not able to be emotionally, physically, and spiritually there for them, K.R.U.S.H. gives these children the opportunity to be in a group where they know they’re not alone, they get support from their peers while learning that they did nothing wrong and how to deal with their sometimes overwhelming emotions! All schools need this program so they can help the children who don’t know how to deal with their feelings or suppress their feelings, feel less than, and/or act out. My adopted daughter was a member of this group for almost 2 years, she loved it and it has helped her to realize that she’s ok, her parents have the issues and that she is a likable, loveable, smart, and beautiful little girl!”

The Creators of KRUSH

Kristi has worked in the Russell Independent School System for nine years as a special education instructional aide. In the summer of 2018 she graduated from Ashland Community and Technical College with an Associate of Arts Degree.

Over the years in the school system, she has worked with students who are dealing with loved ones being incarcerated. These students experienced negative effects from the situations they dealt with. Kristi helped develop the content guide and program with Jalina.

Student behavior, attendance, and performance all suffered in some fashion as a result of having a loved one incarcerated. Kristi has also experienced incarceration in her own family, which also prompted her to create this program.
Kristi Whittaker

Jalina has worked as a teacher since 2008. She has been stationed at Russell Independent Schools for 10 years. Mrs. Wheeler has a degree in Learning and Behavior Disorders (K-12) from the University of Kentucky. She taught in a resource setting for 8 years as a special education teacher. She also holds a master’s degree in School Counseling from the University of Cumberlands along with an Education Specialist degree in School Counseling.

Jalina has a Rank 1 in Special Education Director from Morehead University. Kristi approached Jalina to join in on the program after working together in a resource setting for 8 years. Mrs. Wheeler also has an immediate family member that has been incarcerated. Jalina felt that this program was needed and jumped on Kristi’s offer to follow this journey. Jalina helped develop the content guide and training program with Kristi.

Since starting the group, it has grown dramatically in our area. All Russell Independent Schools currently have KRUSH programs. It is now in schools across the state of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Students that participate in the KRUSH group show significant growth in attendance, behavior, academics, and in friendships. Many of our students began expressing their emotions better and began healing with family members.
Jalina Wheeler