Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,000,000)
The Wilderness Education Project (WEP), a non-profit organization, proposes, in partnership with Johnson County Schools (JCS), to implement Project SOAR. WEP requests funding to launch Project SOAR through a framework that will include social-emotional learning (SEL) assessments and student\staff training. JCS is located in the Big Sandy Region, a rural portion of Southeastern Kentucky, and is home to more than 3,400 students in grades P-12 and has multiple measures in place at each district’s seven (7) schools that will assist the implementation of SOAR. WEP developed the SOAR model based on a community needs assessment to meet the Kentucky School Safety and Resiliency Act (KSSRA) guidelines or Senate Bill 1. Senate Bill 1 was developed because Kentucky is experiencing a dramatic increase in school violence and safety concerns. This Act affected multiple statutes regarding school safety and student resiliency. These statutes impact education and many agencies that work with districts and schools. SOAR incorporates key KSSRA recommendations, including statewide implementation of expanded school safety and threat awareness training, staff and student participation in student mental health/suicide prevention training and reporting, and access to social-emotional support tools. Cross-sector activities will engage students, staff, and the community in Johnson County that will provide programs, systems, and evidence-informed practices from the BARR Center, Positive Action, the WhyTry Organization, and Nearpod. Needs have been identified and will be addressed from the following: focusing on the negative impacts of substance use disorder through building assets and reducing risks to our student population, families, and community; providing schools with an evidence-based approach to a therapeutic program to provide cognitive behavior, reality, and solution-focused therapies; building a district-wide social and emotional learning program to promote the whole child; implementing evidence-based strategies to improve school climate through a multi-tiered approach and resilience training; and increase the district’s behavioral threat assessments to prevent and reduce targeted violence in schools to enhance school safety. Project SOAR will provide SEL curriculum training, engaging presentations that promote evidence-based strategies, data collection instrumentations to measure school climate, and a model framework that supports MTSS, PBIS, and school safety crisis planning. Project SOAR will educate students, staff, parents, and community stakeholders to promote capacity building to prevent violence in all Johnson County schools.