Community Collaboration: A Key to Success

When I first started working with Starr Commonwealth, I was focused on how it would help my individual students and clients, and there is no doubt in my mind it has and still is helping in an amazing way. The more familiar I became with trauma and its impact, the more I realized there was more to be done. Trauma impacts on an individual level, of course, but what about on a community, societal or intergenerational level? We have learned a tremendous amount about healing individuals and helping them build resilience, but what about the importance of healing communities and finding ways to help our communities thrive?

Agencies, communities and even whole states are working to become trauma informed. There are many examples out there such as TICB, Trauma Informed Community Building, a public housing revitalization effort in San Francisco, The Alaska Resilience Initiative and Trauma Informed Oregon, just to name a few. Where do we start? How do we reach out, and to whom?

One answer is community education and involvement. One of Maya Angelou’s most famous quotes is, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” It is very easy for us to make assumptions about why others do what they do and to even be, dare I say, “judgmental” at times, but this goes against some of the primary tenets of trauma informed care, collaboration and mutuality. These core beliefs stress that healing comes from the meaningful sharing of power.

We began to reach out to our community several years ago in different ways. First, we established a SITCAP® workgroup that community members were invited to, helping to promote an understanding of trauma and resilience. Second, we invited local social service agencies and mental health professionals, as well as other school professionals, to our annual training day.

Local collaboration has the power to take us even further on our journey to become trauma informed as a district and community. For the last couple of years, we have worked with our local downtown Rotary Club, a wonderful organization designed to serve their community. They have helped with supplies for classrooms to help students with self-regulation and funded additional training for teachers. This school year, we are fortunate to have them sponsor our Starr Certified Trauma Practitioner recertification day. They will be helping by providing funding for marketing, a meeting room, lunch and snacks, materials for hands-on sensory based activities and paying for participants CEU’s, just to name a few wonderful things. We are so excited that they are reaching out to help us further educate our school staff as well as community professionals!

How did this all start? Very simply! We came across the idea and asked. One of my favorite sayings is, “It never hurts to ask.” Each Rotary Club normally has a district grant that they write annually to help support positive opportunities within their community. One of my supervisors at the time knew about the opportunity and suggested we write a proposal. The first year we were turned down. However, that following summer the Rotary actually contacted me and asked me to write the proposal again for the upcoming year because they liked the idea and wanted to help. I rewrote the proposal, it was selected and awarded, and we are now on grant number three working together to help our community become trauma informed. Next school year, all three of our local Rotaries will combine funding for the first time ever on the same initiative to continue our efforts.

As you look to build resilience in the individuals you support, I encourage you to look at the big picture within your community. There is more work to be done than just on the individual or micro level. We can have a greater impact and help even more people when we get our communities involved, and yours might be just as wonderful and receptive as our local Rotary is! If you are in the Missouri area, consider coming to our Rotary sponsored recertification day on March 27thin St. Joseph, MO. I will be presenting the Starr training, “Courageous Connections,” helping professionals become even better at reaching out and building effective, healing and life-changing connections with their clients or students. If you aren’t in our area, feel free to steal this idea and contact your local Rotary Club, or any other number of wonderful giving organizations that can further the impact of what you are doing; working to help others heal and thrive. For more information on our training day or this collaboration, please feel free to contact me at Reach out and change your world!

By Jean West

Jean West, LCSW ACTP CT, is a school social worker for the Saint Joseph School District in Missouri. She serves as the District Trauma Consultant and Trainer. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who also has a part time private practice specializing in working with traumatized children and families. She is chair of a local SITCAP Community Workgroup that meets bi-monthly, ensuring sustainability of the efforts within the community to be trauma informed. West was past chair of the local Homeless Continuum of Care Committee, as well as The Circle of Hope Evidence Based Work Group. Jean has received the National Consultant of the Year award from TLC, was runner–up for Innovator of the year for The St. Joseph School District, and has been awarded The Support Person of the Year for SJSD as well. Jean is also a Certified Trainer for The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children. She presents nationally and internationally, as well as facilitating many local trainings for her community. Jean received her Bachelors in Psychology from Missouri Western State University and received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Kansas.

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.