STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- Mental health and trauma-informed education are increasingly becoming a part of educators' training as kids head back to school, but once school is done for the day, hundreds of those students continue their evening at places like the Boys & Girls Club. This week staff trained to continue the support kids get in school through the evening club hours.
"We really look at ourselves as an extension of the school day," Danielle Belsky, Boys & Girls Club of Portage County Director of Operations said.
With 400 kids coming in daily in Portage County alone, Belsky said this diverse population comes with a wide variety of needs.
"They might be a little higher risk and they come here and we want to give them that support of working maybe a little bit more closely with them with that homework or getting them through that program so they can really have more opportunities that they might not have outside of the club day environment," she explained.
The Boys & Girls Club makes that happen by training staff about trauma-informed care and signs of suicide; staff that, overall, are not more than a few years older than the students they serve.
"It really helps the relationship when they have a role model that is that young adult that they can aspire to be," said Belsky.
The training is provided by Marshfield Clinic's Community Health Advancement Program. Its manager, Jennifer Smith pointed out, the staff at the club do not have the same level of experience and education as the school teachers, which is where the training comes in.
"The kids who need to be here the most are often the ones who present the most challenges," she said, "and so if we have staff who are skilled and able to address those, then we can keep those kids engaged in these after school programs."
She explained the staff's training experience can improve lives beyond the students inside the club.
"I think they're also in a demographic that is potentially at risk for depression or suicide, and so even in their own peer groups, these skills can be a benefit," she said. "So, it's kind of a, it's kind of a win-win."