Tackling bullying and keeping kids safe in Charlottesville and Albemarle County got a multi-million dollar boost this year. It came in the form of a grant to a program educators say is working: Safe Schools/Healthy Students.
The grant program is designed to give kids the tools they need to work through their problems. When school gets out for summer Friday, educators say kids will be in much better shape. Safe schools and healthy students are going hand in hand in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
"If a kid feels safe, they're relaxed," said Project Leader Bob Garrity. "The emotion that takes over the body, doesn't impede learning, doesn't impede listening, doesn't impede the ability to think."
The county and city are using a 4 year, $5.8 million shared grant to improve safety in their 32 schools. New programs promote communication between students and teachers on mental health and bullying. Thursday marked the end of year one.
"When something does go awry, a fight or a bullying behavior of some sort, kids feel more comfortable talking to adults, that they have been bullied," said Garrity.
Monticello High School Principal Cathy Worly says the grant program is working in her school. She says its six councilors and project leaders are keeping kids from dangerous distractions.
"If a child comes to school and in the back of their mind they're concerned about their safety, whether it be at home, whether it be at school, they're not going to focus on achievement, they're not going to focus on their chemistry teacher, their math teacher, their English teacher," Worly explained.
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students program reached 17,000 kids this year. Tackling drug and alcohol pressures and providing support for at-risk kids through positive relationships was also at its core.
"Building relationships, maintaining relationships, and restoring relationships is one of the key elements of the whole programs," said Garrity.
The Safe Schools, Healthy Students team will not be taking the summer off. They will be working with non-profits like the Boys and Girls Club to train staffers and reach kids over break.