By Jennifer Liewer
Editor’s note: Jennifer Liewer is executive director of community relations for TUHSD. The following commentary is in response to a Wrangler News request for a discussion of the challenges and opportunities faced by the district at the start of this new school year.
Today, young adults face a multitude of challenges not experienced by many previous generations. In addition to academic success, high school students are faced with issues that can affect their social and emotional wellness.
At the Tempe Union High School District, we believe our students are not only capable of facing these but that, by working together with peers, educators, families and others, they can use them to make themselves stronger, kinder and more prepared for success in life.
Each and every day, the staff of our schools strive to provide campuses that reflect these ideals. In fact, we held several events last school year to provide educators, students and families with the skills to help adolescents understand the importance of social and emotional health.
Thank you to everyone who attended one or more of these events.
This year, we look forward to continuing these programs and creating more opportunities for parents, students and educators to understand and promote social and emotional wellness. We are proud to announce several initiatives.
Teen Lifeline phone number on every student ID — Suicide is currently the third-leading cause of death among young people age 15 to 24 and our community is not immune.
Last year, two of our schools partnered with the local non-profit, Teen Lifeline, to put a crisis phone number on student badges. This year, every student enrolled in a TUHSD school will have this on their badge. It is a simple action, with minimal cost, that can help save a life.
The message is simple, “You are not alone,” and in Tempe we want all young people to know that support is nearby and available. With this simple act, we hope to empower students to ask for help, to support parents as they communicate with teens, and to encourage everyone in and around our schools to better understand this issue.
Governor’s High School Health and Wellness Grant Program — This summer, TUHSD was granted funding to participate in the Governor’s High School Health and Wellness Program through the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family. The award brings dedicated money for programs in our schools that will work to prevent underage drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug misuse and abuse.
The grant provides funding for three prevention coaches, facilitation of life-skills training and curriculum targeting 9th grade students, town hall meetings for parents and professional development for teachers. With these additional resources, we believe we can make a difference.
Challenge Day 2017 — In partnership with the city of Tempe, our students will have the opportunity to experience Challenge Day, a powerful one-day social and emotional learning program. This will be the fourth year in a row that students have participated in what has been called “a life-changing day.”
Challenge Day has taken place in more than 2,200 schools in the U.S. and 10 other countries, going beyond traditional anti-bullying efforts to build empathy and connections among students while addressing common community issues.
Students are immersed in activities designed to help them see that people are more alike than they are different.