KUTZTOWN – With aid from State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district), Kutztown Strong received a $45,000 Pennsylvania Department of Education Grant to address substance misuse and ensure students and families in the Kutztown Area School District, Brandywine Heights Area School District and Fleetwood Area School District have access to behavioral and health service and supports. Additionally, Kutztown Strong received $20,000 in drug forfeitures from the office of District Attorney John Adams to support the initiative.
Spearheaded by Kutztown Strong, a community-based effort to improve the quality of life in Kutztown and surrounding communities, this funding represents a collaborative effort between public and private sectors including the state, the district attorney, school districts and Communities in School.
The funds will launch a new program, Stronger Together, which will ensure more than 5,000 students and 3,000 families have access to preventative behavioral health services, and other needed resources and supports. Two master social work professionals, shared by the three school districts, will help connect families to resources to meet their basic needs and provide prevention intervention programming aimed at reducing behavioral health concerns such as anxiety, depression, substance misuse and low academic achievement. Other focuses of the program include helping families manage their household budgets and early identification of behaviors in children that might lead to substance misuse.
Speakers included Schwank, Adams and other community leaders.
“I could not have been prouder to help Kutztown Strong obtain this grant,” said Schwank. “Funding is always an issue when it comes to projects like these, and I’m thrilled to help get it off the ground with District Attorney John Adams, and also happy to see it get the support of Kutztown, Brandywine and Fleetwood School Districts. The dollars spent here are worth so much more than emergency room visits, law enforcement costs, and the emotional devastation of families whose children misuse substances.”
“Many of us associate problems with crime and drug misuse with cities and urban schools but those of us who work in the field know that our suburban and rural communities face the same challenges,” said Adams. “I’m pleased to support today this model that really gets to the heart of what we need to be doing – getting kids and their loved ones the behavioral health services and supports they need to surmount potential roadblocks to their pathways to success in school and in life.”
“Our role in public education is to create a community of learners that have access to and the tools necessary to succeed in their educational pursuits and fulfill the promise of dreams,” said Kutztown Area School District Superintendent Christian Temchatin. “Our Board of Directors, teachers, and staff are committed to creating opportunities and eliminating barriers. With the support of amazing community partners, like Kutztown Strong, Senator Schwank and District Attorney Adams, we will now be able to support students and families with greater depth than ever before.”
“These funds, this program, will help us to meet the needs of our students,” said Fleetwood School District Superintendent Greg Miller. “There’s also an added piece here, in a state where we have 500 school districts, we see an opportunity for partnership. In this mode we’ll be able to share resources to better meet the needs of students. And I think that’s critical not just in this endeavor, but we can learn from each other in many other aspects and continue to grow to meet the combined needs of our communities.”
“I strongly believe in the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Thanks to the community, legislative and law enforcement partnerships, we have an incredible opportunity to make positive, purposeful impacts for the children in our community,” said Brandywine Heights Area School District Superintendent Andrew Potteiger. “These grant dollars, and this initiative, targets and puts in place supports for the children in our community that are most vulnerable to varying life influences.”
“Thanks to Senator Schwank and DA Adams, Communities In Schools has an incredible opportunity to work with Kutztown Strong and Kutztown Area, Fleetwood Area and Brandywine Heights Area School Districts to surround students and families with a community of support and empower them to have bright futures in school and in life,” said Communities in Schools President and CEO Timothy Mulligan. “We are excited to grow our CIS presence in this wonderful Berks County community.”
“Six years ago, when Kutztown strong was born, several churches came together to begin Oasis Youth Center, which has served Kutztown’s students in tandem with Kutztown Strong ever since,” said Kutztown Strong Board Member Nate Herrlin, who also serves as an Oasis Youth Center leader. “As I’ve gotten to know individual students through Oasis, it has become clear that there are as many unique needs for support as there are students in our district; whether the need is a listening ear, guidance or food. It’s exciting to see another layer of support is being added through Communities in Schools.”
“There are so many people to thank for sharing in this dream about bringing social workers into school. From Kathy Metrick, the founder of Kutztown Strong, to Sheryl McKlveen our community coordinator and some might say our official energizer bunny, to Senator Judy Schwank and (Schwank’s) District Office Director, Tom Gombar, thank you for believing in us and opening doors for funding,” said Kutztown Strong President Merry Schlegel. “Together we’ve built a bridge for our schools and families to have access to behavioral health services and supports. This is just the beginning; we truly are so much Stronger Together.”
For a full list of Kutztown Strong supporters and partners, visit www.KutztownStrong.org.