Keystone Honors Academy and NAACP Media Area Branch Host Mini-Conference on Trauma-Informed Education
June 19, 2012
On Friday, May 25, the Keystone Honors Academy at Cheyney University co-sponsored a mini conference on the subject of trauma informed education. The event was held in collaboration with the Media Area NAACP Branch, and brought together nationally recognized professionals in the areas of education, psychology and psychiatry, social work, medicine, nursing, and practitioners in social service organizations. Drawing upon the work by the Center for Disease Control, and empirical research in these fields, the conference examined the impact of trauma on learning and the ways in which social conditions mediate the well-being and intellectual development of youth. Through a series of presentations and panel discussions, the group also explored strategies to help address such impediments to successful school performance.
According to Dr. Tara Kent, the Dean of the Keystone Honors Academy, “the subject of Trauma and Education is an issue of national concern, yet the subject is of particular relevance to Cheyney University, the nation’s oldest historically Black university. There are most certainly dimensions of trauma which have specific impact on the population that we serve at Cheyney University, and in many ways, we seek to specialize in providing the resources necessary for our students to be successful.”
As discussed by the presenters, and as literature on the subject indicates, a traumatic experience may have a profound effect on the physical health, mental health, and development of the student, which can seriously interrupt the school routine and the processes of teaching and learning. These high levels of emotional upset contribute to disruptive behavior, and low student attendance. As Dr. Kent explored in her presentation, agencies such as The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provide data which indicates that students who are traumatized by exposure to violence have lower grade point averages, more negative remarks in their cumulative records, and more reported absences from school than other students. They may have increased difficulties concentrating and learning at school and may engage in unusually reckless or aggressive behavior.
The keynote speaker was Gordon R. Hodas, MD, who is Statewide Child Psychiatric Consultant with the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) and the Bureau of Children’s Behavioral Health Services. In his work, he often collaborates with multiple statewide program offices, managed care programs, provider agencies, families and advocates, and others. Dr. Hodas is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is a member of the Workgroup on Community Based Systems of Care of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Hodas has served as faculty member for the National Technical Assistance Center’s National Executive Training Institute (NETI) in developing and disseminating its “Training Curriculum for the Reduction of Seclusion and Restraint.” He provided an overview of the many dimensions of trauma, the impact of trauma on learning, and explored the possible intervention strategies which may help intercede in the cycle.
Additional presenters included faculty from Cheyney University and West Chester University, health practitioners and community service agencies. Amongst the presenters were Fiona M. Allison, Ph.D., a school psychologist, Kathleen Lehman, RN., who is a part of Crozer’s nursing team and Director of ER3 Outreach, Suzanne O’Connor who is with United Way of Southeastern PA, Ann Schwartzman MSW, who is the Policy/ Acting Program Director at the Pennsylvania Prison Society, Wendell Merrial McWilliams, IV, Ph.D, faculty in Social and Behavioral Sciences Department at Cheyney University, Hazel Spears, Ph.D., faculty in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Jolly Ramakrishnan, Chair of the Department of Guidance and Counseling, Donzelle Tiller, faculty in the Department of Guidance and Counseling, and Dominique Pearson a graduate of Cheyney University, class of 2012.
Dr. Joan Flynn, who has coordinated similar discussions on this subject, served as the co-coordinator for the event. Dr. Flynn is the President of the Media Area NAACP and the PA NAACP Education Committee Chair. The NAACP, along with our half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States, is comprised of advocates committed to raising awareness for political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens in the electoral process. With approximately 2,200 adult branches, youth councils, and college chapters in 49 states, 5 countries and the District of Columbia, the NAACP is actively engaged in increasing the African American responsiveness of citizens to be fully engaged in the democratic process.
The Keystone Academy at Cheyney University is a dynamic educational initiative for academically talented students. The program serves a diverse body of students of low socioeconomic status, and provides an array of programs to further enhance the collegiate experience of its members. The honors academy’s persistence rate is 82% and the program graduates students at a rate that is twice that of the national average for African Americans. There are more than 500 alumni of the Keystone Honors Academy, and they are employed in the public and private sectors, spanning the fields of medicine and health, business, law, education, and public administration.