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

Cary: Building a Resilient Community

Town of Cary staff discussing ACEs and resilience.

60 minutes is all it took to spur several Town of Cary staff to action to support their colleagues at the town staff level and to start thinking about supporting the 162,000+ citizens of Cary in a different way.

Cary Detectives Armando Bake and Elizabeth Pearson, and Performing Arts Education Specialist Rachel Baranski with Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources (PRCR) attended a film screening of the 60-minute documentary Resilience last December about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), how they change the brains of children with multiple ACEs, and how building resilience skills can lessen the significant poor health outcomes caused by ACEs. Sam Trogdon, also with PRCR and a member of AHA’s Board of Directors, welcomed attendees to that film screening last December and then connected with his co-workers attending.

Last month at AHA Partnership Meeting, Bake and Baranski shared highlights of the staff-led work since then to begin building a resilient community in Cary; 30-50 Town of Cary staff members are involved in Work Groups that mirror the work of the county-wide ACEs Resilience in Wake County Initiative. Their goal is to look internally first to support staff and then to expand support to the citizen they serve.

Educating Staff and Creating Awareness

They have screened the film for 500 employees, including police officers and fire fighters, and trained summer camp counselors (serving 2,500 children) and other part-time staff on ACEs awareness and resilience building techniques to support all children they work with. Baranski revised the employee handbook for performing arts programs to include resilience goals, and ways to help instructors support children in deescalating their nervous system response. “If a child is having an emotional crisis or is triggered by something, you can’t teach, much less discipline during that. You have to help them calm themselves first,” Baranski said.

Baranski and Bake said that their work groups are first building employee resilience through learning and a shift in thinking about what may have happed to town employees (and well as the citizens they serve), and making changes such as classroom practices, staff training and encouraging ongoing awareness. They are also are providing a peer support team for police officers and bringing ACEs awareness into the Employee Assistance Program.  Their next step will be supporting the community as a whole.


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