Going Back-to-School with Hope and Positivity

While there is a lot of hope that this can provide some return to normalcy, Lindsay reminds parents and teachers to remain vigilant and open to what kids are experiencing.
Mother and daughter sitting together at a picnic table
Lindsey Dawson, Mental Health Clinician, with one of her twin high schoolers.
Mother and daughter sitting together at a picnic table
Lindsey Dawson, Mental Health Clinician, with one of her twin high schoolers.

VOA Alaska’s August 2021 Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.

In normal times, the Back-to-School experience is stressful enough. But this year, after online classes, canceled sports and activities, and isolation from friends and classmates—the return to school is weighing heavier on many students than ever before.

“I think a new challenge is going to be social anxiety,” says Lindsey Dawson, a mental health clinician at VOA Alaska and a parent of twin high schoolers and a middle schooler. “Going back to school with their peers, being surrounded by all of these sights, sounds, and people—they haven’t had that for virtually 18 months.”

This year is full of unique challenges and dynamics that students, parents, and teachers haven’t had experience coping with. Take last year’s Freshman, who are now returning to high school as Sophomores, but may be feeling just as “fresh” as those a grade below them. Both have little experience within their schools’ hallways. 

Graphic listing tips for navigating back-to-school-anxieties

Or consider students who moved to the district in 2020 and have yet to meet their classmates and teachers in person. This is what Lindsey’s students will be experiencing. “High school is also supposed to be fun,” she reminded us. “Dances, football games, pep rallies, all the traditional things that I enjoyed about high school—they haven’t even been able to experience any of that.”

So, while there is a lot of hope that this year can provide some return to normalcy, Lindsay reminds parents and teachers remain vigilant and open to what their children and students are experiencing.  

“Be aware of those things that we feel are not important or not tragic but can be really traumatizing to them. Like ‘my boyfriend broke up with me today.’ That is a big deal for them, even if they’ve only been going out for two hours. We shouldn’t minimize whatever emotions they are feeling.”

“I feel like the words for this back to school are grace and patience,” Lindsey says. “Give your kids a lot of grace. You know they survived this pandemic, now they’re going through yet another stressful change.” And if they are struggling, “focus on the positives. Focus on the fact that this is a brand-new school year.”

If you’re seeking more support for your family, VOA Alaska clinicians are embedded in many schools across schools across the Anchorage School District. Our school-based team has been working hard all summer to develop an array of wellness services and support. If your child’s school doesn’t have an on-site clinician, help from our main office is simply one call away at (907) 279-9640. Not ready to call? Complete our quick online form to have someone contact you.

Full Backpacks, Full Hearts: Kinship’s Back-to-School Fair

Felicia Tungul, Family Wellness Coordinator at VOA’s Trailside Heights

Our Kinship Family Program is delivering 100 backpacks stocked with community donated school supplies to our Kinship and Trailside families. At the Back-to-School Fair, our team was joined by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska to connect the kids with mentors and the Food Bank of Alaska to share SNAP benefit resources. Thank you to all our community supporters and partners for helping these families start the new school year with joy, hope, and connection!

Innovation Celebration: VOA Alaska Wins National VOA Shark Tank Competition!

Person with hands in the air in celebration
Andrea Stearns, ANP, celebrating her Shark Tank win!

Andrea Stearns, Nurse Practitioner, represented our Alaska affiliate at the annual Volunteers of America Shark Tank Experience. All VOA affiliates were open to submit ideas, and three were chosen for the final round. Andrea presented her innovative proposal to a panel of four esteemed judges, ultimately winning the top prize of $15,000 to jumpstart the project! The Mobile Access to Primary Care for Adolescents in Treatment (MAPCAT) will empower youth to take charge of their health through ease of access to primary care. Congratulations Andrea!

Photo of the Month: We are VOA Alaska!

Last month, our staff gathered together at Valley of the Moon for a company picnic! It was the first time that many folks had the chance to meet their colleagues face-to-face. The joy and connection felt that evening is still reverberating through our hallways!

Sponsor Spotlight: iHeart Media


That is how many times our friends at iHeart Media have provided help and hope to young Alaskans by sharing VOA Alaska’s public service announcements about available resources to help youth struggling with their mental health. We are incredibly grateful for the kind and generous teams at 101.3 KGOT, 100.5 the FOX, KASH Country 107.5, and MAGIC 98.9 who have helped connect Alaskans to essential services when they need them the most. THANK YOU!