Youngstown wraps its arms around students

By Amanda Tonoli


Eleven new social workers are servicing the Youngstown community by working with city school district students.

“There is a need now more than ever for additional support,” said East High School social worker Christina Scissum. “We provide whatever service we can wrap around [students] to have them come to the school and succeed – that’s what our job is.”

Scissum is responsible for 100 East students and can be helping 15 to 20 in a given day.

“It depends on the need,” she said.

The needs that Scissum helps to address involve students’ lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

“Our kids come with a lot. A lot of our children come from single-parent homes. We have homeless and students with parents who are incarcerated. They are just trying to make it every day,” she said. “We are helping them rise above whatever is going on in their life daily and make it.”

The social workers’ introduction in October came at a time when administrators saw the need to support intervention methods already in place, said Lori Kopp, special education executive director. The social workers’ salaries are a maximum of $41,924 annually. Wages depend on qualifications and years of experience.

“We want to provide even more early intervening services as part of our response and intervention,” she said. “We work with students and provide as much intervention as possible. And the more we can provide the less services or additional and intensive work they need moving forward. Our goal is to provide as much support and intervention as we can with home, school and the entire community. ... We are wrapping our arms and hearts around the kids in the community.”

School district CEO Krish Mohip said the social workers are providing connections to avenues families and children need.

“The social workers [can] connect those families with the resources they need,” he said.

Fulfilling each student’s needs is part of Mohip’s strategic plan for the district, which includes the goal of “Supporting the Whole Child.”

The plan says the district will “ensure every child attends a safe and nurturing school environment with a positive and vibrant culture that promotes the success of the whole child.”

As far as progress since October, Scissum said the community outreach has been heartwarming to see. “It’s nice to have people show up and be committed to these kids,” she said. “It helps them go far. There are just outstanding kids in Youngstown that people can overlook and underestimate. Given the right opportunities, they will be a success.”

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