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WPS Breaking New Ground in Helping Students Overcome Adversity and Stay in School

Melisa Sandoval has become the first educator in the country to receive certification from the National Dropout Prevention Center for specialized training designed to help students overcome adversity in their lives and stay in school. Sandoval, who has been a mental health professional and educator for over 15 years, is the Support Director of Social Emotional Learning and Student Agency for Westminster Public Schools.Melisa Sandoval and Trauma Leadership Team

“We all know that when students are going through a crisis, their school work often suffers and often leads to behavior problems and truancy, which of course increases the possibility they don’t finish high school,” said Tige Asnicar, Director of Student Services. “If we intervene early and offer the right kinds of support, it makes a big difference.”

The National Dropout Prevention Center developed the Trauma-Skilled Specialist certification program after many years of research into how traumatic life events affect the education of students and their behavior. Research indicates that more than half of students have experienced some type of trauma significant enough to lead to negative effects on learning and classroom behavior.

Certification requirements focus on the specialist's understanding of the impact trauma has on a student and requires them to develop the skills to manage specific incidents. Specialists also learn how to assist children in developing resiliency and establishing an appropriate school climate and culture

Sandoval began her training last summer in conjunction with her position as Director of Social Emotional Learning and Student Agency.  

“Quite frankly, it was our district’s openness to this new initiative that helped me to become the first graduate,’ said Sandoval. ”I have always had a passion for working with trauma-impacted students and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at WPS to work with students overcoming significant adversity.”

Melisa Sandoval and Trauma Leadership Team meet Sandoval has already assembled a Trauma Leadership Team in the district to help schools do a better job of supporting kids in crisis. Sandoval hopes to have an effective training program available in 80 percent of the schools by this spring and in place in all schools by next fall.

The National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) was created in 1986 to serve as a clearinghouse on issues related to dropout prevention and to offer strategies to increase school graduation rates. In 2018, NDPC joined Successful Practices Network, a not-for-profit organization that works with schools and districts globally. The organization is dedicated to bringing the most up-to-date resources and assistance to practitioners and others to achieve success by design, specializing in the areas of Dropout Prevention, Trauma Skills, Career and Technical Education and Literacy.