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Family Members ‘Major’ in Mental Health at Parent University

by Florida Center for Early Childhood

 SARASOTA COUNTY, August 15, 2019 – The Florida Center for Early Childhood’s team of school-based mental health therapists took on new a role this summer – they served as “professors” at Parent Universities across the county.

Parents and caregivers with children enrolled in Sarasota County Schools’ Summer Learning Academes were required to attend Parent University sessions as part of a two-generational learning approach that helps prevent students from experiencing summer learning loss.

Summer Learning Academies (SLA) took place from June 3 – July 18 at all Title 1 schools in Sarasota County. Incoming kindergartners and students advancing to first through third grades, districted to an SLA site, were all encouraged to attend the six-week program. SLA focuses on reading and math in the morning, and STEM and enrichment activities in the afternoon.

While the emphasis was on student learning during the daytime, parents attended one evening class each week. Most of these lessons incorporated some aspect of mental health awareness as a positive approach to building parent-child relationships, which can help students succeed in school. Schools recruited school-based mental health therapists to teach the lessons.

The following topics were covered as part of the Parent Universities:

Sarasota parent Emmalee Legler attended Parent University at Fruitville Elementary School, which was conducted by School-Based Mental Health Therapist Madison Siegfried.

Legler, whose daughter entered kindergarten this school year, said Siegfried provided training that got parents thinking about different ways they can be supportive and build resiliency in their children.

 “The presentation that Madison gave was enlightening to the entire group of parents.” Legler said. “Knowing that Sarasota County Schools contracts trained professionals to offer school-based support to kids is invaluable.”

Florida Center for Early Childhood employs school-based mental health counselors at 15 elementary schools in Sarasota County in partnership with the Sarasota County Schools and Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The purpose of the program is to keep high-risk children in school and help them meet their academic milestones through multi-generational therapy for the students and their families.