How Did TREE Begin?
We are using a place-based and strengths-based approach, rooted in the history, culture, and landscape of Washington County. By working collaboratively with school administrators, teachers, students, parents, mental health providers, and community partners, we expect TREE to result in improved teaching and learning for our most vulnerable students – to create healthier and more equitable schools, and in turn, healthier and more equitable communities.
TREE started out by talking to a lot of people, and listening to a lot of stories.
We did a series of interviews with Washington County school administrators (Superintendents, Principals, and Guidance/School Counselors). We did focus groups with school staff, and with students from pre-K to 12, and also interviews with individuals or family members of individuals that had a hard time with school – to learn about ways school failed them, and also where the glimmers of hope were that sometimes made things better. TREE partnered with the University of Maine, UMM, and Colby College to do interviews and focus groups.
TREE has selected 3 schools for our first cohort. We will work closely with these three schools throughout the school year to offer structural supports that will include:
- A full time Resource Coach (one for each school) to work side by side with teachers in the classroom, as together we develop and implement strategies for mitigating adversity.
- A Mental Health Coach/Coordinator to work across all 3 schools, who will coordinate with outside agencies to provide mental health services on site, thus removing transportation barriers. It is exciting to note that the individual employed by TREE will be able to serve students who do not have MaineCare or insurance, thus filling a gap that is often seen in our schools. TREE’s Mental Health Coach will not be tied in any way to billing, thus the supports can be provided throughout the school to entire classrooms, and consult will be readily available.
TREE is also committed to supporting all interested schools in Washington County through professional development opportunities.
For example, supporting schools financially so staff may attend trainings and conferences, or delivering specific workshops and professional development to staff in their own school environments.
We are working closely with the Community Caring Collaborative, based in Machias, which is made up of 37 partners including tribal and state agencies, county agencies, and private agencies including medical centers and hospitals – the CCC is dedicated to “nurturing and sustaining collaboration that expands resources and results in greater hope, health and well-being for Washington County people.”