Additional counselors making a difference at West Ottawa schools

Posted at 5:28 AM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 05:48:22-04

HOLLAND, Mich. --An estimated 1 in 4 students has probably experienced some form of trauma. Now a West Michigan school district is doing its part to offer resources to them right inside their school.

"It might be they just had a fight with their family members or loved ones, partners or their friends.  and obviously these things impact them and their ability to focus in school", said Danielle Barnes, Wellness Coach at West Ottawa High School.

Students at West Ottawa Public Schools in Holland, now have a safe haven when they are in mental distress or just need someone to talk to.

"They know that there is a trusted caring adult here," said school counselors Lacy Ottemen.

It's new staff of mental health professionals spent the summer becoming a trauma informed district, meaning it has trained professionals to work with students of all ages.

"Truthfully, if they`re coming to school carrying the burden of trauma or the issues they are experiencing at home they`re not going to be ready to learn and our goal is for them to come here and learn and be successful and have a great life," she said.

It's been three months since West Ottawa Public Schoolshired almost 10 full-time mental health workers at the beginning of the school year, dedicating resources to promoting mental health.

"I probably have the best job in the district because i get to come along side kids and do life with kids to help them build skills," said Sally Woods, positive behavior support specialist.

Not even half way through the year, and teachers, counselors and even students can say they are seeing a big difference.

"We really want all of our students to be successful and by creating environments in the classroom that make them feel successful by having trusted adults that they feel they can talk to that will help buffer some of the trauma they`re going through so that they can be successful academically and socially," said Ottemen.