This story is part of our Raising The Bar series. Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News is leading the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have an idea for a Raising The Bar story, click here to email us at email@example.com.
Teachers at one of Clark County's lower-income school says many times their students' minds are on problems outside the classroom, even when they are inside the classroom.
That's why the Hollingsworth STEAM Academy is one of eight schools throughout the district participating in school-based therapy through United Citizens Foundation.
"We have a lot of parents who suffer from substance abuse and homelessness and as a result of that our kids they struggle at home," Miadora Nelson, Assistant Principal at Hollingsworth STEAM Academy said. "When they come to school they bring those struggles in and a lot of times learning is not their top priority."
Research shows low-income students, like those who attend Hollingsworth STEAM Academy, need more time in the classroom because they have fewer resources to catch up at home.
School leaders say in the past they've had no choice but to send some students away from class because of behavior problems.
"They come in with aggressive behavior, so they might throw chairs, rip up their paperwork and run out of the classroom," Nelson said.
Since January, those involved with the UCF program and the leaders at Hollingsworth say they have noticed a change.
"Attendance is higher. Test scores are better. The atmosphere and rapport of the student population is much happier," Shari Brown with United Citizens Foundation said.
The group now provides therapists free of charge at Hollingsworth as well as three other elementary campuses and four high schools in Clark County.
"Really try to work with the students to get them to talk and to get them to express themselves because their feelings are a big part of their therapy when they are young," Brown said.
The program requires parents to sign off on the treatment at school, which leaders say can present challenges at points.
"We had a family that just didn't want to come in. There were cultural issues and all kinds of things dealing with stigma," Brown said. "Once we finally got the therapist to talk to the family and explain what is going on, they now come in just to visit."
Therapists work with young students to teach them the skills needed to deal with their emotions so they can stay in the classroom.
The academy's assistant principal says you can see the results just 10 months into the program.
"Even when they are having a meltdown now they are able to calm down much quicker and get back to learning much quicker," Nelson said.
With so much success, UCF would like to expand its services to other campuses but says each school based wellness center costs about $125,000 a year.
They are working to raise money to supplement the state grants that help them serve the eight current schools.