Our partnership with Elmhurst started over ten years ago when two different schools, Elmhurst Community Prep and Alliance Academy, combined and became Elmhurst United.
More than most, Elmhurst United is a school that “gets” mental health. Providing mental health services on a school campus is a unique kind of work as it’s not the primary focus of why kids are on campus, but everyone knows academic success isn’t possible without mentally healthy students. At Elmhurst, school leadership collaborates with our staff seamlessly, considering mental, social, emotional and behavioral health in all aspects of student life. Our staff are so integrated into the school community that new people are often surprised to hear we aren’t district employees. When Seneca therapists walk the hallways, many students clamor to connect with them. “Take me!” they say. Some clients introduce their therapists to anyone who will stop and listen, “That’s my therapist!” they say. This lack of stigma is the result of years of work from both Seneca staff and Elmhurst leadership to incorporate therapy services into the school day so that students see it as one of many supports they have access to in their school community. This, along with academic support, physical health support through the health center, recreational activities afterschool, and the list goes on.
The return to in-person learning has been difficult for some students. Elmhurst is located in a community heavily impacted by systemic oppression. Seneca staff have worked tirelessly with school staff, including the “Justice League” (Elmhurst’s restorative discipline team), to help students transition back to a community that feels safe and supportive. That work often includes building strong relationships with school staff as well as students. Our staff show up in all parts of the school during the day: at recess and lunch, during core academic classes and elective classes, in parent meetings and IEPs, and lunch in the teacher’s lounge. Our integration into the school community helps students and families to feel seen and heard, especially during tough times. This holistic view of community healing has only deepened during the time of COVID. Seneca staff have partnered more and more intentionally with school leaders to create healing spaces for teachers, oriented toward community wellness and resilience. That work allows staff to show up fully as human beings with all the identities they hold in addition to the roles of teacher/educator. With the increased focus on wellness, the staff are better able to extend the much-needed support to the students and families who make up the Elmhurst United community. It's an honor to be a part of this community-focused healing-centered work.
School Programs Continuum