MIYFS School Fund Drive will benefit children

By Brenda Finkenbinder

Island Forum

The ancient African proverb ``It takes a village to raise a child'' is as true today as it ever was. It takes a supportive community to work with the family, to raise a child, and weather the storms of life. Right now the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation is conducting its annual School Fund Drive. We need you contribute to the fund drive and be a part of the village that is raising so many wonderful and thriving children.

One of the many ways Mercer Island Youth and Family Services is working to build a strong community is by partnering with schools to provide our children with school-based mental health, drug and alcohol, and social support programs. Focusing on cognitive, social, and self-management skills, school counselors serve a vital role in maximizing student success.

Our counselors keep an eye out for our children's academic and social needs that impact achievement and behavior on school playgrounds, in school hallways and in the classrooms. They help with all manner of childhood problems, from offering words of support after a playground crisis to intervention for more serious emotional needs such as coping with depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, grief, learning disabilities, and divorce.

Services vary from school to school, depending on the needs of the children. Youth and Family Services counselors work side-by-side with school personnel so that services are accessible to children and families and seamless within the school environment. Some of their work is crisis oriented, such as when a school experiences a tragedy or a child experiences a loss of a loved one. Some of their work is ongoing, such as school citizenship programs and parent consultations.

The Mercer Island Youth and Family Services elementary school counselors help children with stress, depression and anxiety disorders. They provide support to help our young children through family conflict and issues relating to self esteem, school, body image and friends. They help parents understand and cope with their children's developmental needs and serve as a resource to teachers. Middle School Counselors provide individual, family and group counseling and support for a wide variety of issues that come up during this critical time of development. They work with students who struggle with depression, self-esteem issues, eating issues, suicidal ideation and other crisis issues. At the high school, two counselors are dedicated to encouraging students to make healthy life choices. They work with teens to cultivate strengths and positively meet the challenges of life. They help organize student programs such as Bridges, leadership groups and Natural Helpers.

Supported by tax-deductible contributions from parents and community members, Youth and Family Services counseling is an integral part of our children's education on Mercer Island. It improves student achievement by increasing our children's sense of personal safety, developing health copying skills, and helping families gain control over their own lives again.

Growing up can be stressful. For many of us, we were blessed with grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins living nearby our safe, secure, walk-to-school, everybody-knows-everybody neighborhood. All kinds of caring eyes watched out for us, understanding the complexities of raising children.

While it may be different for many children today, through Mercer Island's Youth and Family Services school counselor program, we can still play a role in creating a place where our young people are safe to grow, learn and thrive. I urge all the parents of school-aged children to take a moment and return the envelope you received with your fund drive letter. And I welcome anyone even those whose children have grown to also contribute to the fund drive. These children are all of ours. Our whole community benefits by their positive well being.

Islander Brenda Finkenbinder is a member of the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation Board

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