Monday, May 16, 2016

Growing Awareness Month: Success! By: Diana Patterson

Hi Star Families,
I am happy to announce that Growing Awareness Month was a complete success and the committee is jumping for joy!  We began the month with a Blue Spirit Day. Both students and teachers wore blue to support Autism. During the month the committee read to each class about the different “invisible disabilities”. We accomplished this by choosing age appropriate books on the topic. This is our third year reading to the kiddos about Autism and we can see they are grasping and understanding the information.  We had wonderful discussions and breakthrough moments.  

Star Academy 3rd Grade Class. Photo Credit: Susie Steinlein

Star Academy Kindergarten Class

Emily Shane, Star Academy’s art teacher joined in our committee and pitched in by incorporating our theme “Growing our Awareness”  into her art classes and creating a beautiful display in one of our halls.  She has written the following:
In art class, we touched briefly on each of the disorders and watched short video clips about each one.  Our focus in Art was primarily on how artwork and public displays can help bring awareness to any cause.  We discussed the traditional symbol for Autism and the colors most associated with it, and how color and symbols are used to help our brains make connections with specific words or concepts.  Students were so excited to have their individual artwork on a puzzle piece as contribution to the collaborative art display.”


To help our parents stay informed and learn more about each disability we posted 5 facts on our school Facebook page every Monday in April.  Additionally, our school counselor Caroline Hines created a Growing Awareness checklist to help get our students making outside connections.  Below is a poster one student created to describe what acceptance means.


This year we created an anonymous form to give other parents a way to share their experiences.  We had a great post written about #Anxiety and #ADHD from a teacher, click here to check it out!  Jenifer Pearsall wrote a post about getting an #Autism diagnosis,  click here to see it!  Diana Patterson shared a post about her son’s #Autism diagnosis, click here to read more about it.  
Also new this year was our movie night! We donated all the proceeds to our local UC Davis Mind Institute!  It was such a great success. We fundraised $225!!!! Can I get a round of applause?! Thank you so much! These funds will go to purchase toys to use during therapy sessions. If you want to read more about the Tadpole study please click here.

Last but not least we had a successful toy drive. We had 54 donations which included toy sets, sensory balls, legos, books, art supplies, and puzzles. Here’s a picture of some of the toys!


2016 was an amazing year for Growing Awareness Month.  Thank you so much Star families for all your support and compassion.  Please don’t hesitate to contact Jenifer Pearsall and Diana Patterson if you have any comments, questions, or concerns.  Lastly, if you would like to join our committee please let us know! Next year we will have more classes and we also want to expand this to the main campus.  Thank You!!!

Jenifer Pearsall:
Diana Patterson:

Left: Caroline Hines, Center: Jenifer Pearsall, Right: Diana Patterson

Parent Training April 2015

Thursday, March 10, 2016

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Blog Challenge

I've been tagged to participate in the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Challenge!
I realized that this will be my first Blog in 2016 - how quickly times flies! I'm amazed we are already in the month of March. Writing this blog is a fun opportunity for me and also a good chance to reflect - the Counselor is usually the one asking the questions and helping others reflect, so this is a nice change of course!

Here we go!

One: What has been your one biggest struggle this year?
I would say that my biggest struggle has been time! (That seems to be a common theme for almost everyone who has completed this challenge!) I am split between five academies and three different physical locations every week. I constantly feel like I'm not able to do enough or left wishing I could do more. It's been my struggle to make peace with this and focus on the things that I am able to accomplish each day. The bigger events and larger school initiatives are harder to pull off when I am so many different places, but the extra work and effort to make them happen are worth it! I am also very lucky to have teachers and administrators at my schools who are so supportive of counseling and social-emotional learning. They help make so much of my work with students possible.

Two: Share two accomplishments you are proud of from this year.
I am super proud of the continuing focus on Kindness at Star Academy and PACT Academy. We have done amazing things this year in the Kind Kids Club (Star) and with the PACT Acts of Kindness Club. Star and PACT Academy collected 1,842 items this year for #Socktober, benefitting homeless families in our community! NCS students also served the community in a variety of other ways: Writing letters to Veterans currently deployed, singing holiday carols at an elderly Care Home in Sacramento, creating Valentine's for children currently hospitalized, raising money and also collecting supplies for the animals at the Front Street Animal Shelter!

My second accomplishment is focusing on my self-care more this year and practicing self-advocacy. In past years, I often neglected my own social-emotional well-being and sometimes bit off more than I could chew. I am working harder on setting boundaries and taking time each day to refocus and practice mindfulness. I've dedicated some time each week to exercise and have enjoyed participating in Zumba after school on Wednesdays.

Three: What are three things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?
1. Data
My plan before the end of the year is to reach out to parents and teachers/staff to get feedback about current counseling services and social-emotional learning. I am really interested in finding out what has been helpful, what they would like to see more of, areas I can provide more support in next year, and future opportunities for parents and teachers/staff that I can potentially provide. I am also interested in identifying areas of growth and figuring out ways I can improve my services!

2. Licensure Application
I have a personal goal/professional goal to apply for counseling licensure that I've been trying to "work on" for the last four years. I'm very close, literally finishing up the last steps of the application process, but this has continued to stay on the back burner. I finally feel like I'm in a place to tackle it, and I need to get the ball rolling so I can start counting hours!

3. Read and Write
Being a parent (with almost full-time employment) is like having a job that never ends. Opportunities to read, write, and reflect are few and far between. I hope to read two books by the end of the school year, and blog once a month until June (by completing this blog I'm already one step closer!)

Four: Give four reasons why you remain in education in today's rough culture.
1. Kids Matter
Being a counselor in the school setting is such an amazing opportunity to provide social-emotional learning to students, experiences to build a growth mindset, and teach children about healthy choices. My favorite part of each day is building relationships with and interacting with students. My wish for each child is that they can learn how to lead a healthy and happy life. I don’t believe there is such thing as a “bad” student and I don’t believe in labeling children. I think every child is trying to do the best they can under their current circumstances and with the tools and skills that they know. Young people are filled will promise, hope, and possibility!  

2. I Love Feelings!
Working with students and helping them understand and process emotions is my passion. I also love working with teachers, staff and parents, and providing insight into difficult behaviors and sharing resources. Many children (and adults) try to avoid negative feelings (like sadness and anger), will attempt to hide them or cope with them in an unsafe or unhealthy way. Seeing children overcoming their fears or using coping skills in difficult situations is the greatest feeling as a counselor. When they don’t need us anymore and can handle things on their own, we know they are making growth.  

3. Social Justice and Advocacy 
Part of my job is providing awareness and education about mental health conditions and actively working to remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions and treatment. I believe that healthcare and (mental health care) is a right of all people - everyone should be able to get the help they need. I feel passionate about issues impacting mental health and well-being in my community and on a national scale.  

4. Love to Learn
As a school counselor, I am constantly learning from others, making new connections, and problems solving. I enjoy connecting with professionals who are just as passionate as I am about supporting students and their social-emotional growth. I also love pushing myself to learn and grow in areas where I’m not so comfortable - like technology! I make it a point to regularly connect with other counselors in the field, mental health professionals, and educators. I also try to take advantage of professional development and learning opportunities as much as I can!

Five: Which five people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?
I know many have been tagged already, but let’s see…you're next!
1. Joe Wood
2. Tammy Lee 
3. Kirsten Spall
4. Elsa Prettol
5. Kham Vue