In the Student Support Series, we spotlight the great work of YES Prep’s Student Support Counselors (SSCs) and Deans of Students (DoSs) to provide YES Prep students with positive, educational experiences. We spoke with YES Prep Northbrook High School’s Student Support Counselor, Anna Caudle, about her experience working at a SKY partnership campus and with restorative justice.
Tell us about your daily work at YES Prep NBHS.
I really believe in programming so we can serve multiple kids at one time. When we did a needs assessment at the beginning of the year, we learned that a lot of kids had the same questions and presenting problems– abuse, unhealthy relationships, sex-ed, self-confidence, and grief and loss. We try to connect with outside vendors– people who have specialties in these areas. If someone can come in and do grief and loss counseling, for example, then that’s a great way for our students to have more secure attachment figures in their lives.
I also do one-on-one counseling with kids and families. Teaching students coping skills and working on self-esteem are two areas I focus on a lot. If a kid is having an issue at home, we talk to the parent and try to figure out ways for the family to communicate better. We could even have a circle with the child and their family members. That way, both the students and parents are on board with making a change.
I work very closely Restorative Justice Coordinator and our Leadership students to plan circles, support students during the process, and hold kids accountable to next-steps after the circle.
I also lead our Student Culture Committee. The committee plans morning meetings and helps with any summit schedule/culture days. When our kids feel involved, they are more connected here.
Our Culture Days are very impactful. Culture Days are an opportunity for our students to learn about the other members in their Houses (their homerooms) and themselves. This year, we had an Identity Summit, which was grounded in the core value of Power. We had each of our students zero in on who they are and learn about intersectionality through circle activities and team builders.
We also have Raider Aiders, a group that meets every Thursday to think of little things we can do to cheer people up. We wrote cards for a student who was homebound, planned activities/events for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Anti-Bullying Month, and Black History Month. Raider Aiders exists to make both students and staff feel more connected to school. We also have the Raider Steering Committee, which meets with our School Director and the partnership staff to help make school-wide decisions on things going on in the partnership.
Can you give us an example of circles of support?
If the student’s grades are suffering, for example, and they keep putting their head down in class, they might be having a hard time at home because of a family issue, like a parent being deported. A teacher could then refer that student to a circle of support. The student would choose the teachers or peers they want in their circle. In the circle, everyone comes together to rally around the student and make sure school feels like a safe space for them. When they are here, we want them to know they are known and cared for.
Being part of a large district helps us support our students even more. Not only are there more resources, but there are also long-established programs like No Place For Hate and MVP, a volunteer organization that a lot of our students get involved in.
We’re also receive resources from the district. For example, all of our McKinney Vento students received a basket to make Thanksgiving dinner, which was coordinated in partnership with our CIS workers (Communities in Schools). They also have a pregnancy-related service group to provide support for pregnant students and a day care connected to Spring Branch, so that girls with babies can remain in school. These resources wouldn’t exist for our students without the SKY Partnership.