By William K. Alcorn
A behavioral curriculum, created by the Community Solutions Association staff in Warren to help kindergarten students succeed in school, recently was included in a national registry, making it available nationwide.
The curriculum, Project KIND (Keys to Improvement Necessary for Development), was submitted to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidenced Based Programs and Practices, said Kathy LaMarco, Community Solutions director of prevention and community services.
Community Solutions works in schools and the community to try to prevent underage alcohol and drug use.
Since its development in 2003, Project KIND, a life-skills curriculum designed to increase school success by promoting social, emotional and behavioral skills, has been delivered to an estimated 5,750 students in Warren, Youngstown, Girard and Campbell schools and has been evaluated in more than 20 separate research studies, LaMarco said.
The curriculum addresses core areas of social and emotional learning such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
NREPP is a searchable online registry of substance abuse and mental-health interventions developed to help the public learn more about evidence-based interventions that are available for implementation. It can be accessed at www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/.
SAMHSA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is charged with improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative services in order to reduce illness, death, disability and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses. “Being included in SAMHSA’s national registry probably doesn’t mean much to the lay person but in the field of drug, alcohol and mental-health treatment, it’s a big deal,” LaMarco said.
Agencies and programs look to the registry for programs with documented success that they can implement.
“Part of the reason for going through the national registry is that now we’re in a position to sell the curriculum and provide training nationwide, which would help sustain the program at the local level,” LaMarco said.
The Community Solutions staff wrote the curriculum at the request of Warren City Schools kindergarten teachers, and collaborated with the University of Akron on the research and evaluation of outcomes.
“We knew a few years in that we had something that had potential. The Wean Foundation has been our biggest supporter and really helped us to get to this point,” she said.
“We evaluate the outcomes annually, and the results tell us the curriculum helps to improve kindergarten children’s behavior in the classroom. If someone would implement the curriculum based on the evidence, they could be confident that the outcomes would be positive,” LaMarco said.
“The reason we think it’s significant, if you look at the school districts, the common complaint is that the kids lack the social and emotional skills needed to learn,” she said.
The curriculum consists of a series of 12 lessons that focus on the key skills they need to learn. They are fun, interactive and age appropriate, and they have a positive impact on behavior.
“We’ve been embraced in all the schools in which we delivered the curriculum. Teachers are seeing the social/emotional intervention as necessary. We’ve also developed a parent component in which children share with their parent what they are learning at school — good manners, respect, communicating in positive ways, and how to deal with their feelings in positive ways,” LaMarco said.
LaMarco, a 1976 graduate of Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, has been with Community Solutions for 13 years. A Warren resident, she graduated from Kent State University in 1980 with a bachelor of science degree in Law Enforcement Administration and from Bowling Green State University in 1988 with a master of arts degree in Guidance and Counseling.
She has been in the social service field since 1980, working locally for the Trumbull County Children Services Board and Trumbull County Family & Children First Council before coming to Community Solutions.