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LR students react to assembly, staff react to students' surveys


James Pakootas pumps up students for the rap entertainment portion of an assembly last spring, in which they had just heard his and others' stories of misfortunes, mistakes, determination and hope. Later, they filled out the survey. - Scott Hunter photo

An assembly held at Lake Roosevelt in May included stories of how drugs and alcohol can affect someone, as well as rap music, and the students reacted strongly to it all. A survey of the students following the survey has helped enlighten staff to issues the student body is facing, and has propelled them toward helping deal with these issues.

At the assembly in May, James Pakootas spoke about the dark path of drugs and alcohol he went down, how it negatively affected him, how he got into it, and how he got out of it.

Lake Roosevelt student Miah Bearcub spoke about how alcohol negatively affected her family while growing up, but how she ultimately persevered.

Friends of Pakootas also performed a rap concert.

"The kids loved it," said Indian Education Director Kim Stanger, who helped organize the event. "Some of them had never been to a concert like that before, so they were up front, getting down."

Following the assembly, a survey was handed out to the students, with enlightening results.

One question asked, "Did this assembly have an impact on you? If so, how?"

The many anonymous responses included:

"It helped me realize that everyone has/is dealing with things that you may have not known. It taught me that people are capable of turning their life not judge people their past."

"Spread positivity and self-awareness. Also give those who grieve with their demons an outlet, to go talk to somebody to help you."

"It showed me no matter what, I can get back on track."

"A better understanding of how a troubled person or even myself thinks, does, and why we act or feel in some cases."

Many students responded that they or people they knew had experienced things similar to what the speakers talked about, including drug or alcohol abuse in the family, sexual abuse, bullying, and car crashes.

Another part of the survey had students say whether the need to address an issue was "highly needed," "somewhat needed," or "not needed."

Among the many issues the students felt highly need or somewhat need to be addressed were mental health, grief and loss, career awareness, problem solving/decision making, the need for more creative outlets, and bullying.

"It's affecting me realizing how much the assembly touched them," Stanger said. "A lot of them felt like they knew people who had been through some of those things, they themselves had been through some of those things, and they just felt hope."

One program being implemented soon in Lake Roosevelt is called Natural Helpers.

"Natural Helpers is a training retreat for high school students," said Casey Clark, a certified mental health counselor at LR. "It is to help them essentially become natural helpers, so if they see something, say something. Reach out to their peers. Help them, guide them to the right kind of help so that it is just becoming natural for them to help each other."

The program will help select students identify when their peers may be going through issues, and to reach out to help them.

A curriculum that started last year in grades K-6, and is continuing this year, is called the Harmony Curriculum.

"There's a great push for social and emotional learning," Clark said. "It's really just about building relationships between the teacher and their class, and also the classmates building relationships with each other."

"Similar to music or PE, there is Harmony time," Clark continued. "The goal is to make it part of the fabric of what we do every day. There's a lot of class meetings about specific topics, but they're quick so that kids aren't getting bored or losing interest. There's a lot of good results."

Teachers in the school are also learning how to best deal with students with trauma.

"In our area, we have a lot of grief and loss," Clark said. "We have a lot of trauma, so there is a training that is available for the district employees. What we do know is that kids who come from trauma backgrounds and behavior go hand in hand; so understanding that, really being the best you can at how you work with those students, how you communicate with them, how you work through problems with them - I think that's going to be big."

"When you have trauma, different things trigger you," Stanger said. "And that's been hard here because we've had so many kids with trauma that you just never know when you're going to push somebody over the edge a little bit."

Clark explained using a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the worst.

"A good example is, say an average student might get up in the morning," Clark said. "On a scale of 0-10, they're at a 0 or 1, they're ready for the day, they've had breakfast, they feel good. Someone who's experienced trauma wakes up in the morning and might already be at a 5 or a 6. Then something happens on the bus; and they're getting off the bus, and they're here, but you maybe don't know that. So understanding and recognizing some of those things so that we can help guide them in the appropriate ways."

"So between the Harmony curriculum teaching them how to respect each other and become a unit, and then training the teachers on how to be trauma informed, I think those two things are going to be a huge difference this year," Clark added.

Stanger and Clark also noted the school's efforts to collaborate with other outside resources, such as Colville Tribes Behavioral Health, Okanogan Behavioral Health, and Grant County Integrated Services, in an effort to make access to outside help easier for students, something that can be difficult to navigate with the school district servicing five different counties.

"We want the students to know that we care, that they are safe, and that we are taking these issues seriously," Clark said. "There are a lot of things in motion that maybe they don't see because it's behind the scenes. But the doing of it is happening, and hopefully they're going to start to feel that, so that [in] the next survey we're going to see some positive change."

"Our school, like any school, has so many issues," Stanger said. "They're out there, and let's just take care of them the best we can. I feel like we are using all of our resources and our community. We're always looking for volunteers, anything from calling other parents and [asking] 'can you donate this or be here for that,' or if you have a special skill, any kind of coming together. Also, speaking positive about our school and our community because there are so many awesome things here, amazing. Mostly what gets highlighted seems to be the negative, but we have such a great staff, excellent kids, and we want them to be proud to be here.

"I was very thankful on the survey that the kids felt so honest," Stanger continued. "And I love the positive things they had to say and how they want the school to be good."

"It's a new year, it's a fresh year, the kids are excited, the teachers and staff are excited so we just want support in that," Clark said. "We want people to match our excitement and support what we're doing."

Another assembly with Pakootas is in the works, as well as other programs designed to bring more culture and understanding into the school.

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