The Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE) has been awarded a competitive 2018 Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant for $663,379.20 from the California Department of Education. The grant supports three strategies over nine months to increase SCCOE capacity to meet the physical, mental, and social needs of the diverse student population more equitably across Alternative Education Program sites and school districts. These three strategies include the Health and Wellness Santa Cruz project, mobile healthcare units, and the Arts Integration program. The projects represent significant progress towards addressing and supporting the whole student at every Santa Cruz County school for optimal learning outcomes.
The Health and Wellness Santa Cruz project consists of monthly day-long workshops designed to develop expertise at school sites to know about and refer students to available health and wellness resources such as nutrition, shelter, mental health, substance use, physical health, fitness, social services, and law enforcement. Participating school site and district staff will become proficient in referring students for services and expanding access to support safe and healthy students throughout Santa Cruz County.
In addition, SCCOE will partner with local health organizations to provide mobile school health centers throughout Santa Cruz County. While these services already exist, they will be better coordinated to maximize their potential to meet student health needs.
The Arts Integration program has been successfully implemented for visual and performing arts at several local school districts at the elementary level (grades K-5) for the past eight years in partnership with the Santa Cruz Arts Council. The SSAE grant project will expand the program for grades 6-12 in Alternative Education Program classrooms throughout the county. Arts integrations programs are shown to improve academic performance and civic engagement among at-risk student populations, among other lasting benefits.
“These projects will increase schools’ capacity to improve learning outcomes for all students, focusing on those who are especially vulnerable,” said Michael Watkins, County Superintendent of Schools. Upon the completion of the nine-month grant period, school sites will have in place comprehensive resource guides and sustainability plans for maintaining up-to-date information in the long-term.