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SCASD Education Foundation Creates Student Mental Health Fund

by on February 04, 2019 11:30 AM

State College Area School District Education Foundation has established a new fund that will support student mental health and well-being initiatives across the district.

The Mental Health Matters fund will be supported by foundation fundraising efforts and will be the beneficiary of the second annual Maroon & Gray Society Banquet in May.

“Our role as a foundation is to support the district in areas where there is the most need,” Doug Loviscky, foundation board president, said in a news release. “We listened carefully to the district’s focus on this important issue and knew it was an opportunity to make an important, student-centered impact. We are confident that our donor community will be moved and will show up in full support through the Maroon & Gray Society Banquet and on an ongoing basis to make this fund a success.”

According to the foundation, in 2015, data from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) survey raised a red flag in the district when, in anonymous responses, 40 percent of 12th grade students reported feeling that “life wasn’t worth living.”

Since then, the district has taken action, implementing universal screening to confidentially identify at-risk students and open the door for intervention. SCASD also added mental health components to its health and physical education curricula and began providing faculty and staff with training to "develop community and to manage conflict and tensions by repairing harm and restoring relationships," according to the news release.

Those efforts have found success, with SCASD as the only district in Centre County to show improvements in the area of student mental health, according to 2017 PAYS data. Jeanne Knouse, SCASD director of student services, said that continuing progress is critical and that the district intends to further enhance its approach to student mental health — initiatives that will require funding.

“Mental health initiatives in the district impact every student, not just those we identify as at-risk,” Knouse said. “Whether by creating a better learning environment or by letting a student know it’s normal for anyone to struggle with a mental health issue at some point in their lives, it’s benefitting every single child. Our team is grateful to have new resources dedicated to student mental health and to be part of a school district with a foundation that is open to an innovative idea like the Mental Health Matters fund.”

SCASD's 2018-19 budget includes $1.5 million for student health support services focused on both physical and mental health. Only $140,000 of that comes from state funds.

Lovsicky said Mental Health Matters, which will be a permanent restricted fund at the foundation, will support a variety of initiatives identified by the district, ranging from awareness programs to direct support for students in need of mental health services that aren't fully covered by insurance and may be a financial challenge for families.

“The issue of mental health among children and teenagers is not going away, and is, in fact, growing," Knouse said. "As we all know, student mental health has implications for academic performance, social development, and, most notoriously, school violence. We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made as a district, and eager to make sure that a continued commitment to improved student mental health keeps our positive momentum going… for every student, at every school in our district.”

SCASD Education Foundation was established in 2015 as a separate charitable organization for private fundraising for student experiences and learning opportunities not regularly supported in the annual district budget. It allows businesses to make contributions to the district through Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, which lets businesses earn tax credits in exchange for charitable contributions to approved organizations. The foundation raises also raises funds from individuals.

Mental Health Matters is just one way the foundation plans to support students. It recently announced the creation of Student Opportunities Grants to provide direct support to teachers and students for new learning experiences, and it supports the Bill Cahir Scholarship Fund, Sweet Potato Classic Fund and the Memorial Field Bricks program for stadium renovations. The inaugural Maroon & Gray Society banquet in 2018 raised money for new marching band uniforms.

This year's banquet will be held on May 18 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The Maroon & Gray Society's second class of inductees of outstanding alumni and teachers will be announced this month.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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