(Mustang, Oklahoma – January 6, 2020) – Mustang Public Schools serve a population within a state that's top in the nation for childhood trauma. Oklahoma leads in female incarceration and heart disease mortality, and has high rates of child abuse and divorce, lending to the cycles of trauma that impact the state’s youngest residents, the Tulsa World reports. When MPS Director of Student Assistance Programs, Kitrena Hime, began working on the Victims of Crime Act Grant (VOCA) for the District, she envisioned the hiring of two positions that would serve students in a new way. That vision is now a reality as Erica Davis and Jordan Gruenberg are helping students and families on a daily basis in their roles as Student Advocates (SAs).
The Victims of Crime Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on October 12, 1984 and establishes within the U.S. Treasury a separate account known as the Crime Victims Fund. The fund is similar to Oklahoma's Crime Victims Compensation Fund because it is not financed by tax dollars, but receives federal criminal fines, penalties, and assessments, as well as certain gifts and bequests. With the money awarded to Mustang Schools, the two Student Advocates are working with and providing additional support to students who are victims of bullying, sexual assault and sexual harassment among other crimes against children.
One of these Advocates, Erica Davis, is a Certified School Counselor as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Erica was a High School Counselor for over eleven years serving a multitude of communities and has worked in community mental health for a combined sixteen years providing emotional and behavioral support to both children and their families. The other Advocate, Jordan Gruenberg, has served as a community based counselor for over 10 years. During these 10 years she focused on all ages for individual, family, and group counseling. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licenced Drug and Alcohol Counselor. She is a Certified School Counselor and worked at Mustang High School for over two years as a School Counselor where she helped coordinate support groups. Before School Counseling, Jordan was a Clinical Director for a community based mental health company called Red Road Counseling Services. She also volunteered for Calm Waters to help run grief support groups.
The support provided by the SAs includes but is not limited to providing a safe environment for investigation and providing bullying information to students and faculty. They provide limited/brief counseling, and emergency response and counseling for at-risk students advocate for the student with school administrators and teachers while assisting in connecting the student to outside resources such as filling out police reports, victim's protection orders or court testimony if necessary. The SAs also work to ensure victims receive appropriate unbiased treatment from school personnel and assist in brainstorming trauma informed consequences, and help lead each school's trauma informed and trauma sensitive trainings as a resource to student centered decision making.
“The vision of our program is for all students are able to reach their educational goals and achieve success in a safe and supportive environment,” says Hime. “Our Advocates do that by providing resources, support, education and intervention to students affected by bullying, harassment, other crimes and trauma.”
Trauma can be complex and personal, a sometimes-invisible force to those outside a child’s mind. But it’s a pervasive force in Oklahoma, the No. 1 state in the nation for children experiencing two or more adverse childhood experiences (ACES). ACES are traumatic events that happen to someone before the age of 17, or any factors in their life that might undermine their development, stability and safety [like growing up around substance abuse or having an incarcerated parent]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that experiencing ACEs can increase one’s risk of developing chronic disease, mental illness and substance abuse, and can cause toxic stress that impacts mental and physical development.
As a Student Advocate, Erica would like to “be a voice of representation and provide support to survivors of crime, connect them to resources and continue educating, students, parents and community members of the needs of those dealing with victimization and trauma.” Jordan shares this vision, but adds that she “has a persistent desire to help individuals and families during challenging times, allowing them to create a positive path for their lives and assisting them to find the resources they need.”
“We believe in this mission deeply,” says Hime. “We know a better state, a less traumatized Oklahoma, where schools understand how to care for hurting students, is possible. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and this program is a great resource to help our families do just that.”
Referrals to see a Student Advocate can be made by anyone by calling 405-256-5225 or emailing the Director of Student Assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org. They also have offices at Mustang Central Middle School, Mustang Middle School, Mustang North Middle School and Mustang High School, but can respond to any school site. Students can ask to see an Advocate by reaching out to the main office or counseling office at those sites.
About Mustang Public Schools
The Mustang Public School District covers over 72 square miles in Oklahoma and Canadian counties with the City of Mustang at its center. The district is the largest employer in Canadian County, with more than 1,000 certified and support employees. Voted one of Oklahoma’s Top Workplaces for the past two years, the school district offers a comprehensive compensation package for full-time employees, in addition to a satisfying working environment. There are eight elementary schools (grades PreK-4), three intermediate centers (grades 5-6), three middle schools (grades 7-8), one high school (grades 9-12), and an educational center which houses pre-kindergarten and alternative education.
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