VOA Alaska’s February 2021 Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.
Just before the pandemic arrived in Alaska, Gabriel’s teachers were noticing worrying changes in his behavior. Gabriel* was open to receiving help but wasn’t comfortable being open about what was on his mind and expressing his feelings. He was referred to the VOA Alaska mental health clinician based at his high school just as the first local pandemic response began.
With school and everything else transitioning to virtual only, Gabriel found himself disinterested in even more time spent talking to someone through the computer. Making things more challenging was the language barrier between Gabriel’s parents and the clinician. The team at VOA Alaska recognized these barriers and quickly worked to find a solution to meet Gabriel’s needs.
Gabriel is now with one of VOA Alaska’s bilingual clinicians, one that can communicate directly with Gabriel’s parents. Instead of virtual counseling sessions, Gabriel meets with his clinician outside of his home. They take walks together around the neighborhood—at least until it got too cold! From then on, Gabriel has engaged consistently with his counseling.
Between online learning and most school-activities canceled, students have spent a lot of time at home in the past year. Gabriel has thrived with having flexible options for his counseling and with simply having a weekly routine of attending sessions. Gabriel has grown to express things that were a challenge before, and he’s making progress towards better mental health.
*The client’s name and image have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Masks for Educators
The partnership between VOA Alaska and the Anchorage School District has strengthened and grown since 2015 when we first combined efforts to expand access to essential mental health services for students. With embedded mental health professionals in many schools across the district, students and families face less barriers to accessing care at low or no cost.*
As the pandemic continues into 2021 and students return to the classroom, the team at VOA Alaska wanted to show our support for our ASD partners while also raising awareness of the services and supports available. Our idea: reusable masks for educators!
Teaming up with Common Good Masks, we recently delivered resource packets to educators at high schools across the district. Each packet included a high-quality reusable mask, information about available services, and a referral card to assist educators with contacting VOA Alaska should they know a student in need of extra support.
Educators are often among the first to notice when a student’s behavior has changed and to recognize when additional support may be needed.
We are thankful for the continued collaboration with the Anchorage School District as we seek to provide help and hope to students in need. Together we are taking important steps to eliminate suffering for youth in Alaska.
*School-based services are supported by a CARES Act grant from the Municipality of Anchorage
Thank you to Best Storage for their continued support of VOA Alaska’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program. Youth transitioning out of houselessness often have little to no material goods or furnishings. The space provided by Best Storage makes it possible to accept furniture and other large in-kind donations to help these youth get comfortable in their new homes. Thank you!