Students face many potential barriers to success.
Drugs, alcohol, stress and depression are just a few.
And students can run into those problems at young ages.
To help professionals in the Warren County School District's elementary programs be more prepared to guide their students past those barriers, the district is instituting an elementary level Student Assistance Program (SAP).
During a three-day SAP training session last week, a group of about 30 teachers and administrators heard from officials from Beacon Light Behavioral Health, and commonwealth-approved trainers with Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services of Cameron, Elk, and McKean counties.
The training introduced the teachers to the four phases of the SAP process - referral, team planning, intervention and recommendations, and support and follow-up.
Trainer Lindie Gnan said the goal for the three days was to give the teachers "the implementation tools they need" to start a successful SAP.
"The purpose of Student Assistance Program is to ensure educational success through successful interventions," trainer Greta Billings said.
The SAP team can "identify any barriers that are impeding (students') academic success," Beacon Light SAP Liaison and Prevention Specialist Sherry Henry said.
The team looks for observable behaviors and works from there.
"Student assistance is not to diagnose, treat or discipline," according to a Billings.
"We have kids that are dealing with real problems," Gnan said.
"If we can provide assistance to these students at an early age we may be able to help them address their issues and place them on a path to be successful emotionally, socially, and academically," Youngsville High School Principal Dr. Darrell Jaskolka said. "If we do not have a mechanism in place to address these issues early, many of these students may drop out of school."
In addition to clearing the way for students to experience success, the SAP can reduce classroom problems for teachers, allowing them more and better opportunities to effectively teach.
Identifying problems in the schools can help identify individual student's problems.
Beacon Light will continue its Healthy Youth Survey of 5th, 8th, and 11th graders in order to help identify what problems exist, and to what extent, in the schools.
The surveys are one component of an important information stream, according to Gnan. "You're getting all the numbers in the world that are saying these issues are real," she said. "Don't be unreal about the information."
That information can tell the school district and the SAP where efforts should be directed.
Particular students can be referred to the program by friends, family, school staff, or even a community member. "The students themselves can even go directly to the SAP team to ask for help," according to an SAP handout.
"It's important for parents to have an awareness of Student Assistance," Gnan said. "The process is intended to support their children."
Parents may choose not to allow their children to participate in SAP, according to an SAP pamphlet.
If that permission is given, the team gathers information from "all school personnel who have contact with the student," and parents.
The district already has Child Study Teams in its elementary schools, but they do different things than the SAP will.
"The Child Study Teams at the elementary level places their focus on academic issues of the child," Jaskolka said. "Teams of teachers meet to discuss instructional strategies and what can be done to help the student be successful in the classroom. The Child Study Teams do not address issues outside of academics."
Adding SAP will not have a major impact on the teams. The SAP will supplement them. "Just run it the way you do now and add (SAP) as a component," Henry said.