In the early 90's, Dr. Leona Shreve was my supervisor as she was Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. She wrote a grant for Gilbert El that was a restructuring grant that was being offered by the Arizona Legislature and it was a sizable amount of money. I can't remember how many were awarded, but it there weren't many. Part of this grant was for a social worker. We received the grant and I was fortunate enough to hire an incredible social worker, Louise. I remember telling her at the time that one way to keep this model going in the future when grant money ended was to make sure that she worked on attendance. Not only is it extremely important for students to be at school so that they can learn, but it is also the way schools are funded! Students attending means money for the districts to operate.
Thus was born the social work model in Gilbert that is still in place to this day. Over the years, even when I had so many students, I always said that I would rather have a social worker than have an assistant principal. There are so many issues in our society and children have so much to deal with because of this and these issues can absolutely interfere with learning. I wish that every school in the U.S. had some kind of model like this to help our kids!!
The other program that was written into this grant but really didn't cost much money was a mentoring program that we named "Tiger Buddies." This program paired an adult with a child who might need a little extra "TLC" for whatever reasons. It was an amazing program. We were fortunate to be right next to the District Office so many of the DO employees became Tiger Buddies to our kiddos. They were awesome and would come to events for their buddies at school, bring them lunch, or just drop in for a visit. There were many times that I would deal with a discipline issue and find out that something traumatic had happened to a child and we would call on the Tiger Buddy for some help. This program grew through the years. A few years ago, I received an email from one of the DO Tiger Buddies telling me about her former buddy, who was then 19, coming to visit her and thanking her for all she had done for me. That story (and many others) touched my heart. Not only did this program help the kids, I think it did a lot for the adults. I know that it did for me just being a part of it!
I am so grateful to have been a part of both of these wonderful endeavors that I believe have helped so many children.