TREE (Transforming Rural Experience in Education) is a targeted, collaborative, place-based response to the educational challenges that often face rural schools, especially those in high-poverty areas. TREE aims to foster resilience and improve the well-being of young people, their families, and communities, by addressing the predictable and recurring barriers to healthy youth development and engaged learning that exist in high poverty rural schools.

Our student-empowered, whole child, trauma-informed approach begins by meeting basic needs and expanding mental health supports for students and families. Using a coaching model, teachers and administrators learn the fundamentals of trauma-informed practice, methods to empower students, and instructional approaches that support the development of the whole child.

TREE Core Claims

  1. Chronic adversity, stress, and trauma are not just individual mental health issues for which families are solely responsible. These are also systemic conditions disproportionately affecting certain populations and geographic areas.

  2. Student success and community vitality in challenged regions is best restored through thoughtful, informed, and committed action on the part of all members of a rural community in partnership with students, teachers, and families.

  3. A genuinely trauma-informed culture is best achieved through engaging youth as full and active partners in school and community transformation.

TREE was inspired by Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that partners with the lowest performing, high-poverty urban schools to address the obstacles to teaching and learning that stem from poverty. We asked ourselves, how can we learn from their work, and build more support for schools and families who are struggling here in rural areas?

We work closely with administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members so that –  

Instead of asking children to beat the odds, we can use this knowledge to change the odds for many children.
— Pamela Cantor, M.D., President and CEO, Turnaround for Children