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Primary Project Enhances Resiliency of At-Risk Students

25 April 2018 |

When Harrah Elementary staff first heard about Primary Project, they instantly knew it was a support service they wanted to offer students experiencing mild school adjustment difficulties. Harrah Elementary is unique among primary schools in Washington State. Housed on the Yakama Indian Nation, Harrah Elementary serves 563 students in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, 52% of whom are Native American, 38% Hispanic or Latino, and 5% White. Over 90% of the school population is low-income and 71 students are identified as homeless. Harrah Elementary students are exposed to a number of risk factors associated with the development of mental health issues, including high rates of academic failure, a reduced commitment to school, and repeated exposure to traumatic events in the community. This school year alone, two Harrah Elementary parents died in car accidents, and four community youth died in car accidents, hit-and-runs, or due to other traumatic circumstances. The stressful circumstances in which many Harrah Elementary students live are often expressed in the classroom, as students struggle to adjust to school and develop the confidence and social skills needed to focus on learning.

Despite this adversity, Harrah Elementary students continue to demonstrate inspiring levels of perseverance and resilience, and we believe Primary Project will further enhance this resiliency by providing our students with the support and skills they need to thrive.

With help from the Washington State Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery and in partnership with Yakama Nation Behavioral Health, Harrah Elementary was able to offer training provided by Children's Institute to 10 school employees and community members and now serves seven first graders through the Primary Project program. According to their teachers, Primary Project students are already showing greater confidence and positivity in the classroom, and are more excited to be at school. Given these initial signs of success and our deep commitment to all Harrah Elementary students, it is the school's hope to expand service to include kindergarten, first, and second-grade students next year. With Primary Project in our toolbox, we're confident we can meet our students where they are and successfully support them as they move through their academic career.

–Julie Schillreff, Supervisor of School and Community Programs, Mt. Adams School District

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