Since the North Bergen School District implemented the Rainbow Days Curriculum-Based Support Group program in October 2019, the program has focused on providing support and guidance to students with a history of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the North Bergen community. The COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders have presented additional challenges and barriers to reaching students in need of these services. In response, the North Bergen School District has taken inspiring and meaningful action to counter the social and mental health impact of the current health crisis.
Like most school districts, North Bergen instituted remote learning for all its students in place of classroom instruction. What makes the district’s educational outreach to students unique is its dedication to thinking beyond lesson plans and providing additional resources that are responsive to holistic family needs. As an example, The North Bergen School District has set up informational portals on each school’s web page regarding available local assistance programs. In addition, counselors have established Google Classroom as a platform where students can access updated information and a link to a reference page with hotlines and community resources. Also, social-emotional topics are given to students weekly through Google Classroom with suggested at-home discussion questions and activities for families. These guided discussions are disseminated in both English and Spanish to advance cultural competency and provide assistance to community members who are foreign-born or speak another language at home. District personnel are also paying careful attention to reducing the stigma of asking for help by building rapport and providing reassurance to both caregivers and students when they connect with their teachers and counselors. Through these efforts, the North Bergen Municipal Alliance has been able to identify and offer assistance to several students dealing with anxiety, fear, stress, and adjustment issues.
The North Bergen community’s exemplary work demonstrates resiliency through adversity. The COVID-19 pandemic and its unintended consequences due to grief and loss have only increased the need for this thoughtful outreach. Partners in Prevention feels fortunate to collaborate with the North Bergen Municipal Alliance in making effective connections with students, their families, and the community in an effort to reduce trauma and adverse childhood experiences.