Heart to heart: Face to face or screen to screen

The pandemic brought the collective state of our mental and emotional well-being into sharp focus. While we were protecting ourselves and our neighbors from the physical risks of COVID, we had to ask ourselves what the mental and emotional toll might be. 

SERRC sought out and received a Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund grant to design and deliver at distance behavioral health and social-emotional learning services to rural school districts. We worked with Klawock City and Southeast Island School Districts, which had limited or no counseling availability in their schools, enlisting seasoned school counselor Leslie Scranton to serve the communities. 

Leslie provided SEL instructional support in Kindergarten through eighth grade and Alaska Safe Children’s Act instruction in Kindergarten through 12th grade. 

“My class loves talking with Mrs. Scranton on the ‘big screen,’” said Klawock first grade teacher Allison Weyhmiller. “Her lessons are engaging and on topic to what we are working on in the classroom. I will often reference something Mrs. Scranton has taught throughout the week when issues arise. We are very thankful that she can meet with us on the screen and occasionally in person. It is a great benefit for my class.”

She also conducted small group and individual school counseling sessions. It took time to build trust in the communities, but as word spread about the work she was doing, more students and families came to rely on her support. 

“Our family faced a devastating loss this past summer. We were looking for a while for someone for our oldest son, who is seven and on the autism spectrum, to talk to to help process his feelings and emotions. We were unable to find someone who fit well with him,” one parent wrote. “Someone at the school suggested Leslie, she has been a Godsend. We have seen great improvement in his ability to process through everything. Leslie also was able to speak to my younger son, this was also helpful.”

As the first year offering school counseling services draws close to an end, Leslie was honored to receive student feedback on her impact. 

“Dear Leslie Scranton, thank you so much for giving us and a lot of other schools the opportunity for letting us learn safe skills and to be safe around loved ones and others. Thanks to you, many people in relationships are a lot healthier and safe. If I knew someone was struggling in a relationship I would recommend you as a trustworthy person to discuss any problems with them,” wrote Isaac.

“Dear Leslie Scranton, It was great meeting you today! You are very kind and sweet! I can’t

wait to meet you in person someday! Ahhh I’m just so excited!!! You seem very motivated and are extremely sweet. I appreciate everything you do for the district. Thank you for teaching us and giving us valuable life experience. I have learned so much from you,” wrote Jaclyn. 

Recognizing the importance of rural districts having access to counseling services during the pandemic and beyond, SERRC is committed to continuing this service. If your district may benefit from school counseling services, please reach out to Jess Mangram at jessicam@serrc.org