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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Implementing Strategies & Skills at WCPSS for Coping with Trauma

Last spring, 10 social workers and psychologists on staff at Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) were certified as Community Resilience Model (CRM) trainers so that they can train other staff, including teachers. To date, they have trained about 225 of their peers, and summer training has been scheduled so that another 20 staff persons can become certified. This will advance the school system’s capacity to implement CRM skills more widely. 

How does that benefit students and staff? It enables them to learn “help now” skills for building resilience to traumatic experiences, such as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). A wellness initiative created by the Trauma Resource Institute, CRM provides a non-judgmental perspective on normal human reactions to stress and trauma, and it encourages people to pass these skills on to family members, friends and communities as a whole, including schools, faith communities, etc.

“CRM is a health-based model in which children and adults alike can learn skills to regulate their physiological response to stresses,” said Drew Pledger, a social worker with WCPSS who is one of the certified CRM trainers. “CRM is based on the science of neuroplasticitiy, meaning that science has shown us your brain can change the way it operates. CRM is focused on learning how to regulate your physiological response to stress, and the more often we practice these skills when we’re not disregulated, the more our brain changes, and we then begin to need it less .” Pledger has worked with colleagues in schools in Buncombe County, N.C., who have seen excellent results from CRM work there where students are able to return to their “resilient zone” after a stressor of some type bumps them out of the resilient zone.

Pledger said that he and the other certified trainers have trained staff at WCPSS’ alternative schools, Longview High School and Bridges Program at Mt. Vernon Middle School; to date only these schools have implemented training for staff. As capacity builds among trainers, the district will be able to offer more schools these skills-building opportunities.

According to Dr. Marrius Pettiford, Senior Director, Counseling & Student Services for the school district, WCPSS also has scheduled orientation sessions so that principals and school staff can learn more about CRM. All 600 WCPSS social workers, psychologists and counsellors viewed the film Resilience last summer.

Pledger also shared that WCPSS has begun instituting Restorative Justice Process circles in some schools. Unlike the CRM skills, restorative justice circles aren’t a crisis responses, but an opportunity for team building to address issues of diversity and to use for dispute resolution. Restorative Justice Circles are developed out of ancient Indian tribal customs where they came together to meet, talk about differences and resolve issues, Pledger said.

Campbell University Law School Restorative Justice Clinic (RJC) has been implementing restorative justice process in prisons with good results, and they are providing training for WCPSS staff who can incorporate it into their classrooms. The “It’s not a crisis response,” Pledger said, “but it’s a way, wherever a sense of community doesn’t exist or a sense of belonging is absent, to find commonality instead of being ruled by differences.”

WCPSS Superintendent Cathy Moore serves on the ACEs Resilience in Wake County Advisory Board, and a number of staff from the WCPSS Central Office are on the Steering Committee, including Drew Pledger.

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