P’ville HS Students’ Emotional Well-Being a Priority With New Program

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The Pleasantville School District is partnering with Pleasantville STRONG and the Break the Hold Foundation to ensure students receive the proper training to manage their emotional and mental well-being.

As youths attempt to navigate the emotional turmoil of growing up, Pleasantville is implementing a social and emotional learning curriculum for its high school students. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents, also known as DBT STEPS-A, is a universal curriculum centered on helping youngsters during the tumultuous and often pressure-packed high school years.

The curriculum teaches skills for emotion management, relationship building and decision making. The program’s emphasis is on teaching practical skills in a classroom environment rather than having students openly share in detail about certain situations.

Brian Halloran, co-founder of the Break the Hold Foundation, announced at last Tuesday’s Pleasantville STRONG coalition meeting that his foundation will be sponsoring a DBT STEPS-A instructor for the high school. He said the program will offer 16 sessions for freshmen, with the hope of expanding the program to other grade levels and neighboring school districts.

Halloran said his foundation wants to be on the forefront of providing youngsters with resources that will allow them to develop and learn how to manage and regulate their emotions in a more effective manner.

“We want to help develop a model here in Pleasantville that can be transformed, translated and moved and modified to other schools in the area,” Halloran said. “If we can help with some resources, with some guidance and with some expertise, we would be glad, too.”

Break the Hold will also be sponsoring teacher training at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in New Haven, Conn. Pleasantville High School Principal Joe Palumbo said participating teachers will be trained this week. Upon their return, they will share information with other faculty members, he said.

While the DBT STEPS-A program will be piloted in ninth-grade English and social studies classes, Palumbo added that students in grades 10-12 will be exposed to wellness training in their physical education classes.

Resources will be provided to parents district-wide as well.

“There’s a lot going on in terms of our emphasis on wellness, equipping students with important skills and providing adults, parents and students with some of the same language so there’s consistency,” Palumbo said. “We’re really going to tailor the work we do based on the experience students have.”

High school psychologist Dr. Jackie Russo stressed that the program is a curriculum, not therapy or counseling. She said it will enrich students with a skillset to handle difficult situations.

The focus of the program will be on mindfulness, tolerating distress, refraining from acting impulsively, avoiding emotional dysregulation, navigating difficult conversations and interpersonal effectiveness, Russo said.

Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter noted that students often find themselves in challenging situations. Providing them with a particular skillset will prevent a conversation from becoming a fight, whether it’s at school or at home.

She said the district’s administrative team is committed to ensuring the social and emotional well-being of students.

“This is a journey and the human existence is very fragile and we absolutely need each other,” Fox-Alter said. “The benefit to all of this will be our kids.”





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