erin reed teaching yoga for self care

Practicing Resilience – Self-Care Series: part 1

Leading to the release of her new course, Practicing Resilience, Erin Reed will be guiding readers through her best advice for taking care of one’s self. As professionals shoulder the burden of their students’ or patients’ trauma, it is paramount they keep their own health in mind. Read below for Reed’s first tips on this critical balance.


Your new course Practicing Resilience will be out soon. What can practitioners who take this course expect?

I’m really excited about this. It’s going to look very different from our traditional courses. Those are done in 6 hours. This isn’t a training where you’ll simply sit and learn. It’s meant to be taken over the course of 6 weeks (at your own pace, of course) as you build in physical and mental self-care. Each section will have a theme, including a physical practice—a breathing exercise, a meditation, or reflection activity. As you learn to build in practices for physical self-care, mental and emotional self-care, and reflection, you’re then able to integrate those activities that you do over that time to create a really solid self-care plan. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

Most of Starr’s courses focus on the needs of children, do we really need a course focused on self-care for practitioners?

erin reed yoga for self care
Erin Reed demonstrating yoga in her course Mind Body Skills

It’s essential. It’s non-negotiable, especially when true trauma-exposure responses like compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and just good-old-fashioned burnout are so prevalent today. Those are really common responses to the exposure that teachers, clinicians, doctors, and anybody else in a helping profession are absorbing all the time. Most of the time we aren’t conscious to it, as we are so focused on the other person’s experience that we’re neglecting our own needs. With today’s pace of life, we don’t make time for ourselves. If you have five things on your calendar, the first one you get rid of is often what you wrote-in for yourself. We are doing this important work and not seeing ourselves in that work. When you are in a state of stress like that, and it’s chronic and prolonged, it’s affecting every aspect of your life—your ability to feel compassion and your ability to remember what even got you into this work to begin with. We are often re-experiencing somebody else’s trauma experience. We have to acknowledge that we’re being exposed to trauma, and then in order to counteract that we have to do something for ourselves. It is a mind-shift and crucial to being trauma-informed. In any organization, we need to move away from the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality and establish a climate that promotes self-care, and where we work together to make it a priority.

This is so much more than simply acknowledging “Oh I’m so stressed!” It is a psycho-physiological response that you’re having. And even if you’re not consciously recognizing it, your body is going to start telling you. So when many states are having things like teacher shortages or when we see social workers who are just completely at the end of their ropes, that’s when we have to dial that back and say “How I am able to show up to my job everyday matters” and “What am I really going to intentionally do about it?”

I think the biggest barrier we have is our time. When we live in a society that prizes achievements and never stopping—the ever-accelerating rate of information exchange—the key is coming back and saying “Well actually to be trauma-informed and truly focused on resilience is something that we do together.” “Not only will I start to value my own time and care for myself, but I’ll help you value your time too.” And to do this from the top down in organizations, a lot of times it’s a big mind-shift.

How do we prioritize self-care during the work day?

erin reed teaching
Reed explains the nervous system’s role in Mind Body Skills

Prioritizing self-care doesn’t mean we won’t still be productive. In fact, it can be argued we would be more productive! In the same way that we advocate for kids to not lose their recess, it’s sort of like we’re advocating for the adults to not lose their recess either. We must place that value on our own play and joy—in our own nurturing. Because if we’re not doing that then how are we going to provide that for other people? When we can’t, that’s when you see a school climate take a huge dive. We see the teachers dragging themselves into school every day with nothing left to give. So I think a huge piece of practicing resilience is just helping people to realize it’s really important, when maybe we’ve grown up thinking what’s most important is just our achievement. Keep in mind, it’s not just a hedonistic blowing off of steam. It’s more of a deeper dive into what you value. When we’re built to survive and then exposed to trauma, we will always have a light in our brains focusing on all the bad stuff that’s happening in order to remember how we survived it. So to counteract that we have to take time to shine that same light very intentionally on what makes us feel alive and joyful in order to balance that experience.

What are some tips for implementing self-care in my organization?

For this month, we should simply identify the sources of our joy and what’s going well in our lives. Maybe it’s a short list at the moment, but I guarantee if you take 5 minutes to really focus, that list will grow longer than you may have realized.

The next step is simply finding 5 minutes, listen to your breathing, and remind yourself of those joys. While it’s a small step, the power to refocus that comes along with those few minutes may completely change the trajectory of your day. Once you can prioritize those 5 minutes for yourself, encourage those around you to do the same. This small step is digestible, but can be built upon in important ways in the workplace.

Violence in Schools: A Dialogue with Derek Allen

As a supplement to Starr Commonwealth’s Violence in Schools resource, Chief Operating Officer Derek Allen shared this perspective on what schools can do to proactively curb school violence.


Click here for our free Violence in Schools resource

Starr Commonwealth is driven to heal. What does that mean when it comes to responding to school violence?

In the past, Starr and its staff has responded with direct intervention in times of tragedy. This essentially includes debriefing with friends and family members of victims, perpetrators, and witnesses, with the ultimate goal of referrals for more long-term mental health support. These types of services are offered by a variety of organizations in any community.

Where I feel Starr Commonwealth excels is in the proactive approach to preventing school violence. Considering our Circle of Courage model, how do we shift school culture in a way that professionals are trained to instill the universal need of belonging? We must make schools a place where literally every child feels connected, cared about, and has an adult that they can go to if there’s a problem. In addition, we need to train staff to identify signs of when a student may begin to feel like they’re being pushed away or rejected, as well as how to best respond. The overwhelming similarity of perpetrators of school violence is that lack of belonging. It only takes one adult showing a child they care to change that student’s world and fill that void.

How might teachers and staff members begin to take the proactive approach and ensure student’s universal needs are being met?

This is a difficult question, as three different students who show the same behavior may do so for very different reasons. It always boils down to the constant curiosity of the teacher:

What has happened, or is happening, in this child’s life that cause this misdirected energy? What about this setting, from the actions of the child or their friends and teacher, to the variation in routine for the day, may have affected them? What were you doing before the behavior, and how did you react to it?

Of course this type of curiosity is only skin-deep. We must also consider each student’s private logic:

How do they view themselves? How do they view others and the world around them? Is that a scary place, or is that a hopeful place? Are people generally helpful and nice, or mean and not to be trusted? Do they see themselves as someone who is important and worthy, or as somebody who’s not good?

We also must go back to the Circle of Courage, and consider their sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. When and where are those needs not met, and why? Because Starr believes that problematic behavior is symptomatic of unmet needs, we must always consider these factors when presented with these situations. When you put those pieces together, you get a much more holistic view of the child and you may find a potential landmine that’s been buried long ago by some pattern of abuse or rejection that is just waiting to be triggered.

When a student’s universal needs aren’t being met, what signs can we look for?

Again, this is one of those difficult questions, as so many “signs” look so similar to your typical kid. There are essentially two broad categories of reaction to unmet needs: inward and outward.

A student showing inward reactions may isolate themselves and no longer play or talk to other students. Sometimes they don’t even respond when spoken to. These students are likely not to engage in extra-curricular activities. Rather, they spend a lot of time expressing themselves through journaling, blogging, or social media. Artwork can often become scary or disturbing. Self-destructive behavior often worsens to self-harm or substance abuse.

The outward reactions tend to be hostility towards siblings or pets, or simply just belligerent and inappropriate outburst for attention at the wrong times. They may begin to present themselves in outlandish ways or dress very peculiarly. This is one of those tricky examples to assess effectively, because millions of kids enjoy expressing themselves through unique fashion. But that, again, is why it is crucial to engage with these kids in constructive ways when you see that type of behavior.

We can never ignore any signs, with the hopes that the lack of attention will curb their misdirected energy. Often times, the lack of attention (and thus missing the sense of belonging that every human needs) is the reason why the behavior started in the first place. Maybe dad isn’t in the picture, or there’s no food at home. Withholding attention does nothing but reinforce, in that child’s mind, that they are not wanted. In addition, you’re also placing undue stress on yourself that maybe can’t be contained forever. When you reach your breaking point, now your reaction to their behavior is elevated and you lash out more than you may have anticipated.  Now, you’re one more adult this student is afraid of.

I’ll return to the simple idea of remaining curious. Engage with these kids! It only takes one adult in a child’s life to show that they’re here for them to change their whole world, and their reaction to that world. If you don’t know where to start, simply let them know that you care about them, and that you can help if they need anything. Then, back it up with intentional interaction each day moving forward.


Starr Commonwealth is driven to heal the pain of violence in schools. While there are many simple steps each educator can take to make an impact in each student’s life, the need for systemic change exists. Download our whitepaper to learn more about our proactive approach to safety in schools, including the 5 shifts each classroom must make for our children.

21 Years of Resilience with Brave Bart

One of most powerful tools in a trauma-informed practitioners belt is the ability to remain constantly curious about what has happened, or is happening, to children in their care. Often, it can be difficult to know where to start in order to build trust in the assessment process. For Caroline “Lin” Sheppard, MSW, she found storytelling to be an effective strategy. “I had always used bibliotherapy in my sessions with children. It can be a great icebreaker and medium to begin the conversation.” Little did she know, that strategy would pave the way for the authoring of a powerful tool in trauma assessment, no matter your lens, whether as a counselor, social worker, parent, or anyone with the ability to make an impact with a child. “When my time in providing direct service ended, I knew I still wanted to make a difference. Drawing from my experiences throughout my career, I knew there was more I could contribute.” What exactly Sheppard would contribute was born shortly after her introduction to Starr Commonwealth.

In 1997, Sheppard began writing Brave Bart upon taking a leave of absence from her school social work position when she moved out of state. Sheppard wanted to continue to use her professional background and  recent experience with becoming a Trauma and Loss Specialist through Dr. William Steele’s training programs, as well as a Trauma and Loss consultant despite no longer working in direct service. She has continued to write helping books with Starr with the goal to provide helpful tools for those who are providing direct service for children, schools, families, etc.

“[While participating in a panel for Steele at Wayne State University], we were challenged to role play with another participant and tell a story about an experience that happened to us. These could be real or made up. At the end of my story (which I really can’t even remember the topic of), my partner looked at me and told me how “brave” I was for going through that. To me, that was very empowering.” And with that, the inspiration for Brave Bart, her children’s book on resilience in the face of traumatic experiences, was sparked.

Sheppard was able to use the experience at Wayne State, reinforced by her previous practices, to develop her very own resource she could use with children. However, Brave Bart did not take the typical situational approach that the other books she had used previously did. “I didn’t want this book to specifically identify the trauma by name in the title, nor by the main character—in this case, Bart. The story does not impose what had happened to Bart, but rather allows for the reader to see their emotions as the same as Brave Bart’s, no matter the event. What the reader does know is that, “something bad, sad, and scary happened” to Bart. More importantly, because the actual experience isn’t mentioned, we can better focus on Bart’s ability to be brave and overcome the problem.” And, most importantly, the child being read the story, or who reads the story, can identify with his feelings and learns through Bart telling his story that their feelings are okay. There is much to be gained from helping the child see that, if Bart can persevere, they can too. More importantly, this book also provides a crucial bridge between the clinician and the child to discover the root of their pain.

“When I ask students ‘what do you think happened to Bart?’, they’re not talking about themselves, and the entire exercise can be a lot less threatening. However, I often found the situations they proposed for Bart were pulled from and reflected their own experiences.”

The power in its simplicity has allowed for Brave Bart to be an international resource on trauma. It has been translated into many languages and shipped across the world to help in times of need, including tsunami response in Japan and Indonesia. “We have even found that it’s universal enough to not even need words,” explains Sheppard. “It has proved to be just as effective as a picture book.” Even then, Brave Bart has room for adaptation. To remain culturally sensitive when Sheppard was approached by a social worker in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake to help grieving children, Bart the cat was changed to a turtle.

Published in August of 1998, Bart is now 21 years old, and has remained brave, even when facing bullying. He is also now joined by Coco and Kitty, also written by Sheppard, who can teach us all about accepting change and celebrating our differences. For more information on how to build resilience in children who have experienced trauma, consider enrolling in Children of Trauma and Resilience.

 

Being Trauma-Informed is a Call to Action: Julie McDaniel-Muldoon

During her time in the classroom, it was no wonder to Julie McDaniel-Muldoon why she always attracted those students who struggled to find their sense of belonging. From chess club and Magic the Gathering, to punk rockers and “misfits”, these students always resonated with her. “I was always that way [myself], I never quite fit in,” recalls McDaniel-Muldoon. “[It has allowed me] to be a bit of a teen-whisperer.”

And that’s exactly why she isn’t a classroom teacher anymore.

After a series of events that were met with injustice for students with high needs, including high-profile criminal hearings, and a lack of support from the powers designed to protect teachers, McDaniel-Muldoon knew it was time for a change. “[After realizing the system had failed these students], that’s when I decided to get my PhD in policy making. I was going to be the voice of the teachers.” Unfortunately, she quickly discovered there was very little room amongst the policy makers for experienced teachers to have a voice. She saw the opportunity to make a difference as an assessment consultant, helping teachers to harness the power of assessment data to improve their practice in the service of students. However, this potential was quickly gutted as No Child Left Behind was passed.

“And once again I had a dark night of the soul. What had I done? I left [teaching], something that I loved and was so good at.”

Fortunately, Oakland County Schools still saw her great value, and she began her work in bullying prevention. As fate would have, it was at this same time she discovered Starr’s Trauma and Resilience training. This serendipitous connection was exactly what Oakland County needed. “As I completed my level 1 and level 2 certification through Starr, I had alternative high schools asking why we weren’t doing more to address trauma. In addition, the CDC had also begun talking about bullying as an [adverse childhood experience.]” This simple connection compelled McDaniel-Muldoon to set out to ensure that the public understood the inherent connection between bullying and trauma. “To be trauma-informed is a call to action. It is paramount that one takes what they have learned and apply it for the greater good.”

That’s exactly what McDaniel-Muldoon did. And suddenly, she found herself having a prominent voice on this crucial connection.

What began as a talk for regional conferences for the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA), evolved into the opportunity to speak at the World Anti-Bullying Forum (WABF) this past spring in Dublin, Ireland. To her surprise, McDaniel-Muldoon was the only presenter speaking on the connection between bullying and trauma. “Bullying is simply a symptom of a greater societal ill. It’s the breakdown of relationships and the disconnect between humans that is causing so much pain in the world,” claims McDaniel-Muldoon. “And of 60 speakers, I am the only one talking about trauma. If we’re not talking about bullying as a traumatic experience, then what are we talking about!?”

It’s in that spirit that McDaniel-Muldoon has taken the momentum of the WABF and had begun spreading her wealth of knowledge through a blog series for IBPA. “I feel one of my gifts is the ability to translate. I’ve been in both the research field [in my doctoral work], as well in the classroom. I cherish serving as a bridge between those two worlds.” Now, her insight, informed by what she has learned from Starr Commonwealth and many other resources, is available for practitioners to implement into their care of children no matter the setting. Topics covered to date include a wide range of issues, including the need for bullying to be assessed through a trauma-informed lens, which most notably stresses the needs of all involved—the victim, the bully, the witnesses, etc. Additionally, McDaniel-Muldoon has written on the importance of the sense of safety and its prioritization over traditional tools put in place to establish “safe schools.”

As Social Media Director for IBPA, McDaniel-Muldoon is responsible for sharing cutting edge research and proven practice through IBPA’s social media platforms that are focused on bullying prevention, school community-building, trauma-informed practices, and more.  Over the past few months, she has also written articles and blog posts for the IBPA website that aim to increase awareness and to spark conversation on how to improve the health and well-being of children and young people, as well as those who serve them. In addition, she is also the host of the “Beyond ACEs: Why Trauma-Informed Practices Are a Call to Action” webinar.

As schools embark in this work, McDaniel-Muldoon offers the crucial ingredient for success: safe and strong school communities. In these places, staff and students feel the sense of belonging, agency, and voice that is necessary to build strong relationships and to repair harm to the community. The critical first step starts with the adults who need a strong professional community with a shared vision of their ideal school.

Ultimately, McDaniel-Muldoon’s journey through our educational systems relates directly back to the Circle of Courage and the oneness of humankind. When we prioritize belonging and generosity in our students, the epidemic of bullying can no longer distract from student safety and learning. What is more, the millions spent on futile efforts to curb this problem can be redirected to better foster healing and learning in our youth. Perhaps, then, those educators who have the knack for connecting with those children who are most marginalized will earn their rightful spot as a cornerstone of each school, and have the opportunity to help scores more students each year see their greatness.

To learn more from Julie McDaniel-Muldoon and the IBPA, visit ipbaworld.org. To help children in your care better understand what they can do to help bullying problems in their school, consider Brave Bart and the Bully, by Caroline Sheppard and available at starr.org/bravebartbully.

The Art of Resilience Opens in Marshall

Join Starr Commonwealth for the final stop on a Calhoun County-wide, traveling art exhibition featuring work from students at Battle Creek Public Schools, Lakeview Public Schools, and Marshall Public Schools. Happening at EastEnd Studio in Marshall, the Art of Resilience embraces Circle of Courage and Universal Needs modalities throughout the exhibit. Teaching artists worked with students to use art as an expression of how each individual relates to the concepts of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity while celebrating their resiliency.

“For me, making art about uncomfortable or even traumatic experiences is a way to acknowledge my feelings and start to process them. Without art, I would have no way to fully articulate myself. I know I’m not an outlier in this regard. It’s incredibly meaningful to see such young students explore this particular way of responding to life. Creating something with meaning using stress or discomfort as a prompt is a way to be truly resilient and our Calhoun County students have done a wonderful job of expressing themselves.”

“The kids clearly thought deeply about their artworks, and we are honored to be able to showcase their strength, resilience, and creativity at the EastEnd ‘Art of Resilience’ exhibit.”

Warner Ball – EastEnd Studio & Gallery Manager/Curator and Artist

Open exhibition: August 1-22

Reception: Saturday, August 3, 1:00-3:00pm

Made possible by: the Battle Creek Community Foundation, and the Santo Maria Frank & John Zanetti Foundation.

Learn more on our Facebook page.

Special thanks goes to terraNOVA Collective for their contribution to this special event.

Spotlight – Kathy Hart

As Starr Commonwealth continues to foster healing in 2019 through trauma-informed and resilience-focused care, we are celebrating the professionals who make our groundbreaking work possible, and who are driven to heal through their hard work in the field. Kathryn Hart, MA, director of Professional Training & Coaching and senior trainer, travels throughout North America providing trauma and resilience training to agencies and schools, including Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools and Healing Trauma and Restoring Resilience in Schools. She has dedicated her 25-year career to helping children and families in a variety of capacities. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in professional counseling from Liberty University, her experience with youth and family services have encompassed both clinical and administrative roles.


Awareness for trauma-informed practices has been continuously growing over the last few years, what do you see as the greatest factors attributing to that rise?

More people are becoming informed about the link between physical health and mental health. The ACE [Adverse Childhood Experiences] Study, as well as Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ subsequent campaign for behavioral health since are key examples of this. Additionally, childcare trends have changed from removing at-risk children from their homes and communities to keeping children in their homes and communities, and therefore, schools are seeing more problematic behaviors. This has resulted in schools asking for help in dealing with these behaviors in order to keep these young people with problematic behaviors in school.

How has that growing awareness shifted your perspective/strategy as a trainer?

As we learn more about the mental and physical effects of trauma and toxic stress through our work in our behavioral health clinics and other direct services for children, we’re able to apply those lessons to our courses. Because we’re constantly collecting more data, we always have a need to develop new content and resources to serve our trainers and customers with the latest research and information in the field of trauma and resilience. By offering our courses online, practitioners anywhere in the world can access this information through a medium that feels personal and polished. We also continue to utilize our 300 Certified Trainers across the globe to deliver our content at conferences, professional development days, and private consultations. The combination of these approaches has allowed Starr to ensure we remain on the leading edge of trauma-informed and resilience-focused care!

What barriers remain, whether in classrooms or communities as a whole, to ensuring trauma-informed practices are embraced and implemented universally?

Education about how trauma affects a developing brain is a huge barrier. I will hear comments like “everyone has challenges, they just need to pick themselves up and deal with it.” There is a common misbelief that it simply is a choice to let trauma affect you. This is not true; trauma is a body experience. Children who have experienced trauma need help with emotional regulation if it was never taught. Their brains are often wired for fear, to fight for survival. They often do not have access to their cognitive parts of their brain.

Sometimes the barriers are financial. Schools know and accept that children of trauma need more help from caring adults but do not have the finances to add additional staff or reset spaces to help children of trauma release their activation and regulate their emotions. As the health of our schools is vital to the health of our communities, Starr has found that local partners, such as community and education foundations, are excited to work to overcome these cost barriers. In many ways, the cost is even greater when we don’t fund training and resources to help children with trauma responses, as these issues lead to a need for more support staff, outside intervention, etc.

Another barrier I have observed is the need for teacher education around trauma and trauma-informed classrooms and schools. Many new teachers become overwhelmed with the behaviors in their classrooms and without the tools to help these children, the teachers experience burnout and leave the field.

So what are the solutions to these barriers?

Explaining the biology behind trauma and how children of trauma’s brains are developed really can create a mindset shift for teachers. No one goes into the education field to hurt kids; they just need to be educated more on the effects of trauma and be given the appropriate tools and resources to help. When they realize our cognitive functions literally shut down in times of stress, fear, or a trauma response, I start to see this “ah-ha!” moment as they begin to understand that behavior is communication. The child needs something to help them re-integrate the cognitive and sensory parts of their brain, because “stressed brains literally cannot learn.”


Another solution is for educators or professionals to understand trauma-informed practices not as another curriculum or behavior management system, but as a way of doing what they already do. This includes how we greet our students, measure behavior, structure recess and specials, and more. I think of it as universal care–not everyone needs it but it will hurt no one to do it AND will help our young people develop healthy and nurturing relationships.

You’re on the front lines across the country on a weekly basis, what are some of your favorite stories in the schools you’ve been to lately?

I’m so proud of a phys ed teacher who, in the past, was quick to kick a student out and send him to the office to deal with in times of behavioral communication. After learning from Starr, he was able to calm the student down by getting on his level and taking deep breaths with him until he was ready to talk. A situation was de-escalated, and this student felt heard!
In general, teachers are reporting more and more the desire to resolve behavior issues instead of sending students out of class. Through these breakthroughs, they’re feeling refreshed and hopeful that they can help their students. Thus, more time is dedicated to learning and growth!

What are some quick tips readers can begin implementing into their care today?

  • Ask what has happened or what is happening to a student instead of what is wrong with that student.
  • See behavior as communication and ask yourself, “What is this student telling me?”
  • Greet every child by name every day.
  • Do not take problematic behavior personally. See it as communication for what a child needs.
  • Use a value-based classroom behavior management system that is based on community values versus shame-based compliance systems. And stop using publicly displayed behavior management systems like clip charts, point systems, and so on! Instead, track behavior data privately to learn what does and does not help that individual.
  • Praise the positive and the efforts, and dig for the gold in each child!
  • Ask for feedback from peers! Sometimes we need an objective opinion about behavior.

Where do you see trauma-informed education heading in the next 5-10 years, and what can teachers do now to stay ahead of the curve?

I see more schools understanding the importance of educating all staff in trauma-informed practices. What a teacher experiences with a student each day may be different than a bus driver, lunch attendant, or administrator. By all being trauma-informed, we are all able to remain constantly curious about every student, in every setting, every day. And it’s not only about identifying toxic stress, but the importance of building resilience in each child as well. Every interaction is an opportunity to help our children grow, and it takes a village. The sooner we begin looking at our students through a trauma-informed lens, the easier it is to be intentional in your care. Therefore, I see colleges and universities implementing curriculum that will produce trauma-informed educators by graduation.


What’s the next step in your schools’ trauma-informed journey? A full list of Starr’s courses is available at starr.org/courses, or attend an in-person training at starr.org/conferences.

Empowering Professionals and Building Resilience in Atlanta Students

“The perspective gained from Starr’s conference is unparalleled.” – Julie McDaniel-Muldoon, Michigan educator and international speaker on the traumatic effects of bullying

A 2-day, Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools Workshop will be offered to education professionals in the greater-Atlanta area on October 24 & 25, 2019, to teach new tools to heal trauma and build resilience in all children.

Over the course of the 2-day workshop, Starr Commonwealth Certified Trauma Practitioner Kimberly Hodges, EdS., will teach two courses: Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools and Resetting for Resilience; sharing her first-hand experience and real-life examples of how to put each set of principles into practice.

The cost for the workshops is $367, which includes course materials and 12 CEU’s (upon request). For an overview of each course and additional workshop details, please see below.

As an international leader in trauma-informed, resilience-focused practices and interventions, Starr Commonwealth is driven to heal children and empower the professionals that support them.

Workshop Details:
Date: August 26 & 27, 2019
Time: 9 am-4 pm
Cost: $367 (includes guidebooks and CEUs)
To Register: Email Kimberly Hodges at hope@khodgesconsulting.com

Location:
Hampton Inn & Suites-Atlanta/Decatur/Emory
116 Clairemont Avenue
Decatur, GA 30031

Day 1: Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools
Audience: All school professionals regardless of job title.
Overview: This course covers the first 6 of the “10 Steps to Create a Trauma-Informed School.”  School professionals will learn how to create trauma-informed schools and classrooms – focusing on resilience, exploring the core values and beliefs of educators, and understanding how trauma impacts children and their school experience. Lastly, proactive strategies such as fostering connections, prioritizing social and emotional skills, establishing safety, and promoting play will be presented.

This course provides detailed information and concrete actions that answer not just the “why” but also the “how” to create the best classroom and school supports for traumatized students and the school professionals who serve them.

Day 2: Resetting for Resilience
Audience:School professionals who want to build resiliency in young people.
Prerequisite: Completion of one of these courses: Trauma-Informed Schools or Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools.
Overview: Resetting for Resilience covers the last 4 of the “10 Steps to Create a Trauma-Informed School,” in addition to Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports – such as resets that occur outside of the classroom. There is a strong focus on understanding the link between private logic and deficits in the universal needs of the Circle of Courage®, each of which directly impacts/influences academic achievement and social and emotional development/behavior. An in-depth overview of how to assess and develop behavior support plans for students using the Circle of Courage® model will also be provided.

Completion of each course counts toward Trauma Practitioner Certification (CTP) through Starr Commonwealth. For more information about Starr certification, please visit https://starr.org/programs/certifications/

About Kimberly Hodges, EdS, CTP
Since 1995, Kim has worked with students identified as having severe emotional behavior disorders. She has served in the private residential and public-school settings as a behavior specialist, classroom teacher, and crisis interventionist.  Kim is a Certified Trauma Practitioner and Associate Trainer with Starr Commonwealth, as well as a trained Child Forensic Interviewer.  In 2016, Kim founded K. Hodges Consulting, LLC, to combat the devastating effects of childhood trauma through training, consultation, and advocacy. In addition, she continues to serve as Behavior Interventionist for South Metro GNETS (Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support).

For more information on how to become a Starr Associate Trainer, please contact Starr at info@starr.org. Together, we are driven to heal.

Unable to attend the workshops due to schedule conflicts? Please check out Starr’s eLearning platform, where each course and more can be taken from the comforts of your own home!


trauma sensitive yoga for victims of human trafficking

Mind & Body Empowerment for Human Trafficking Victims

Building Resilience and Belonging through Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

Starr believes, as its founder Floyd Starr did, that there is no such thing as a bad child.  And, when you provide a safe environment, when you treat a child with dignity and respect, it changes a child’s heart. And that, in the end, is what changes a child’s life. It’s a powerful story that we have been helping children write for over 100 years at Starr Commonwealth. For all students on Starr’s campus, this approach is applied to healing their pain-based behavior. By identifying what has happened, or is happening, within each individual on our campus, by understanding their own internal logic, our staff is able to assess and treat trauma to ensure resilience and future success.

Taking a modern approach to Starr’s 1913 Creed that “badness is the result of misdirected energy,” our trauma-informed methodology traditionally utilizes therapy, education, work, and play to help our students focus, reset, and grow. But how might these practices need to adapt when the “misdirected energy” of some students is the result of traumas that go beyond the most commonly thought of, or even imaginable, forms? Starr Albion Prep’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) program, led by Starr Albion Prep’s director of therapeutic services, Mackenzie Bentley, addresses such trauma, and it has required us to think beyond our traditional programming.

For the victims of human trafficking, the first step is often the most difficult task — helping these children make sense of what has happened to them. To get them to understand they are victims, much of our time is spent in cognitive restructuring to help them see that they, in fact, were exploited. As one girl simply put it, “I didn’t even know I was being trafficked.” This cognitive restructuring takes the shape of conversations, readings and videos on what modern trafficking looks like, as well as journaling to identify what has specifically happened in their past, or is happening currently inside them, to help re-shape their image of themselves. And, while this programming is vital to the healing process, Starr’s most dynamic approach to building resilience in these victims is through physical supplements to their mental care.

“Trauma is a body experience,” explains Starr’s senior trainer and yoga instructor, Erin Reed.  “You’re activated into a sympathetic nervous system response, and if you’re living in that experience over and over again you begin to create physical patterns you unconsciously repeat.” Through teaching yoga, “we are creating awareness of those patterns, and empowering these girls to make choices about their reactions.” In that spirit, yoga is providing a modern day coping strategy for the “misdirected energy” that Floyd Starr spoke to 106 years ago.

In conjunction with Starr’s CSEC program, Reed’s yoga classes are offering a focus on therapeutic themes including acceptance of self, awareness, and empowerment over the safety of one’s own body, and ultimately, personal resilience. “We’re helping these girls befriend and care for their bodies by putting aside the shame that comes from the traumatic experience [of trafficking].  We help girls reconnect with themselves in a compassionate way,” says Reed, who has prepared for this program for over a year with 200 hours of trauma-informed yoga, and 300 more to come this year. “[Yoga] has helped me shape my wounds into areas where I have become my strongest, and now I am able to help others who are hurting and give them a space to do the same. In that way, I’m not really a teacher, but simply a guide for these girls to have that same healing with their bodies.” This guidance shifts traditional therapy models into a both intrapersonal and interpersonal experience.

“In a traditional disease model, we’re really disempowered by relying on medicine or a therapist to heal our wounds,” says Reed. “It takes away the power of relationship, whereas a therapeutic yoga model gives us the power to heal ourselves by first becoming aware of ourselves, and then sharing a common space and celebrating a common experience with the group.” Despite only being a few months into the program, self-healing, according to both Reed and Bentley, has already proven its effectiveness.

“It’s miraculous what we have seen,” Bentley celebrates. “The girls are growing week to week and able to even teach each other as they build skills.” While most programming in residential settings is at risk of carrying the stigma that it’s required to complete one’s stay, both Bentley and Reed say they have girls asking for more time in group, extra yoga sessions, and seeing an overall excitement to be a part of the program. What Reed has experienced in yoga sessions has confirmed the success of the program. “Each class I see girls spending more and more time being connected with their bodies and less time dropping out of poses. They have been shifting away from their learned hyper-vigilance to spending more time feeling safe with their eyes closed. They’re not only connecting what they’re feeling in life to what they’re doing on their mats, but wanting to then share their experiences with the group after.” This sense of empowerment and sharing has multiple benefits, and it is paving the way for the future of trauma sensitive programming at Starr Commonwealth.

“What these girls have been through distorts all sense of belonging,” says Reed. “We’re helping them rebuild a healthy sense of that belonging, of their self-image, and of their own empowerment and resilience.” Considering what both teachers have shared in terms of early success, that progress towards belonging and empowerment is well on its way, and encourages Reed to look to the future of the program. “What these girls have learned about their journey means that they will be the best guides for other victims. Their insight and understanding will allow them to be the most effective stewards to other women who have these same experiences.” Until those future plans can come to fruition, Reed and Bentley can reflect on the growth they have found in their own work, as well as its benefit to the campus of Starr Commonwealth as a whole.

“I have been deeply impacted by being in that group with them,” claims Bentley. Reed has experienced a similar, personal reaction as “[she] feels most connected to [her soul] when doing this work.” And while these two are able to grow from direct interaction with the program, the presence of these girls on campus means that all of the residential campus must carry with them the knowledge that some forms of trauma and victimization aren’t yet fully recognized and addressed in our society, and they challenge traditional treatment and require new approaches. Ultimately, the introduction of the CSEC program has allowed for Starr to foster healing through a more dynamic trauma-informed approach, and staff can find even more courage in each child they serve. In that spirit, these girls have empowered not only themselves, but a bigger community than they may ever realize.

Looking to incorporate more CSEC-informed tools into your practice? Register today for Starr’s Understanding and Combating Child Sex Trafficking online course. For more resources on human trafficking, visit gems-girls.org or the SW Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force Facebook page.

If you are driven to heal like Mackenzie Bentley and Erin Reed, and would like to learn more about trauma-informed care in your organization, visit starr.org/courses.

Healing Hearts with Animal-Assisted Therapy

People who have experienced trauma can find it difficult to verbalize what happened, including how they are feeling about it. Trauma is defined as when someone has “encountered an out of control, frightening experience that has disconnected (them) from all sense of resourcefulness, or safety, or coping, or love” (Brach, 2011). Office-style, clinical therapy can be uncomfortable for those who have experienced trauma, as verbal communication is the main aspect of this approach. One very successful approach for treating this population is Animal-Assisted Therapy.

boy with horse

In Animal-Assisted Therapy programs, clients work alongside their animal partner toward completion of pre-determined personal goals. This may include completing caring chores for their animal partner (feeding, watering, brushing, cleaning up after them, etc.), in addition to ground interactions (walking, giving cues, establishing trusting bonds and relationships, etc.). There are three types of Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI). Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA’s) provide opportunities for motivation, education, and/or recreation to enhance quality of life. Animal-Assisted Education (AAE) is a planned and structured intervention directed and/or delivered by educational and related service professional with specific academic or educational goals. Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal directed intervention in which a trained animal is an integral part of the treatment process, and is delivered and/or directed by health or human service providers who document and evaluate interventions. The modalities may be combined to provide a more thorough experience (Choi, Dudzik, Fine, Jegatheesan, Johnson, Maria-Garcia, Omerad, Yamazaki, Winkle, 2014):

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) has also been defined as a “therapeutic modality with goals that are consistent with all of the basic counseling theoretical orientations. It is considered an adjunct to therapy in that it encourages and facilitates client motivation and participation, enhances the client–therapist relationship, stimulates client focus and attention to task, and reinforces positive client change” (Chandler, 2012). The therapist’s supportive, purposeful interactions between the client and the therapy animal, as well as between the client and the therapist, are an essential part of the success of therapy that incorporates the use of a therapy animal. AAT is not magic, but it can be an integral and complimentary contribution to the therapeutic process itself, sometimes appearing “magical.”

It is known through research that trauma affects a person by how he/she experienced the event, and not necessarily defined by the event itself (Soma, 2017). Therapeutic approaches for victims of trauma often include talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and/or possibly Art Therapy. Each of these can be beneficial in assisting a client to heal; however, as mentioned above, it has been determined that victims of trauma can find verbal communication difficult. Their sense of safety and trust has been challenged through their experience, overflowing into other areas of their lives. AAT has proven its effectiveness over the years for those who have experienced abuse, neglect, drug addiction, sexual assault victims, broken families, and anger management. Introducing animals during the therapeutic process provides a calm and comfort to clients that cannot be duplicated through the therapist. Animals have an ability to sense what someone needs at the exact moment they need it, a soft nuzzle on the arm, a lick on the hand, a cuddle on the lap, or just offering the sense of “being there.” There are also beneficial sensory experiences for participants of Animal-Assisted Therapy, which is an integral part to healing trauma. Animal partners encourage human senses to engage during the session, providing opportunities for touch, smell, sound, taste, and sight. For example, when the animal partner is a horse, there are coats to touch and brush, the velvety nuzzle of a soft nose, horse breath to feel and small, peppermint treats for both horse and human, soft eyes that share emotion, and the pure joy of seeing such a beautiful animal.

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, some positive outcomes of participating in an Animal-Assisted Therapy program are as follows: companionship, connections with animal(s) partner, ability to share without using verbal communication, rewards with affection, someone to talk to without fear of broken trust, a bond that will build trust, a stronger sense of self-regulation, and a decrease in symptoms of PTSD. Luckily, there are several program options to assist those who have experienced trauma during their healing process. The most important thing is that clients themselves choose the type of therapy they feel most comfortable participating in.

Healing is a journey, and each person’s journey should be his/her own.

References
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Broch, T. (2011). Definition of Trauma. Retrieved from URL: http://trauma-recovery.ca/introduction/definition-of-trauma

Choi, G., Dudzik, C., Fine, A., Jegatheesan, Johnson, R.,B., Maria-Garcia, R., Omerad, E., , Yamazaki, K., Winkle, M. “The IAHAIO Definitions for Animal-Assisted Intervention and Guidelines for Wellness of Animals Involved”. (2014).

Soma, C, Allen, D. (2017). 10 Steps to Create a Trauma Informed School. Albion, MI: Starr Global Learning Network

Dr. Caelan Soma smiling with patient

Spotlight – Dr. Caelan Soma

As Starr Commonwealth continues to foster healing in 2019 through trauma-informed and resilience-focused care, we would like to celebrate the professionals who make our groundbreaking work possible, and who are driven to heal through their hard work in the field. For June, our spotlight is on Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, and Chief Clinical Officer of Starr Commonwealth.

Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma-informed, resilience-focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including TLC’s SITCAP® model programs.

She has been involved in helping with the aftermath of disasters such as Sandy Hook, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and others. She is has authored several books, the most recent, 10 Steps to Create a Trauma Informed School and Healing the Experience of Trauma: A Path to Resilience.

She is an internationally acclaimed speaker and trainer, and is the instructor for many Starr TLC courses, including Children of Trauma and Structured Sensory Interventions. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology at California Southern University, where she received the 2013 CalSouthern President’s Award.


In your years of experience, how has trauma-informed care evolved?

The research to support what we have suspected about trauma for many years is now abundant. And, this research spans across ALL disciplines (healthcare, education, psychology, social work, occupational therapy, etc.) When I began working in this field, we focused mostly on social workers and counselors. Today, trauma-informed care matters to everyone!

Neuroscientists have clearly shown through PET scans and MRIs, various portions of the brain becoming activated such as the deepest part of the brain (i.e. difficulty with self-regulation) or other brain structures becoming compromised such as the pre-frontal cortex (i.e. difficulty with decision making, problem solving) as a result of prolonged and exaggerated stress. This aligns with what we observe in children and adults with toxic stress exposure in all settings and how it impacts their physical health, behavior, emotions, ability to learn, socialize and be an active participant in life.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study has also helped validate the connection between trauma and not just emotional health risk but also physical health.

The field of epigenetics has also evolved significantly which helps provide hope to practitioners for even the most at-risk and traumatized children and adults. Why? Resilience!  Even in the most extreme cases, we have an opportunity to provide new experiences which can help change the actual physiology of a person’s body.

We are halfway through 2019, what have you been most excited about this year in your work?

Most exciting to me is the integration of all our knowledge and expertise of trauma-informed care with the 106 year history of resilience-focused practices of Starr. Every training, intervention program, and assessment focuses as much on healing trauma as it does on fostering and restoring resilience.

I recently worked with a child and his father. The child’s school told the father and his son that he had a learning disability and ADHD. After hearing about the child’s history of abuse and neglect before moving to the care of his father, it was obvious to me this child was being observed by his school and compared to his same-age peers from a lens that was not trauma-informed. I was able to help the child, his father and the school understand how trauma had impacted him and that while he was chronologically an 8 year old, developmentally he was more like a 5 year old and needed additional supports in his classroom setting to stay regulated and learn. Simple education for the father, child, and school shifted the mindset completely. In my opinion, this child did not have a learning disability or ADHD. The father and his son were happy to learn that nothing was “wrong” but that “things had happened” and those experiences were impacting him. But, more importantly, there was hope – there were simple things to do both at home, in school and through counseling to improve his school experience. 

What have been the most important developments in trauma-informed care recently?

In addition to the aforementioned interdisciplinary approach and application of epigenetics, I would add discoveries in mind-body connections and the polyvagal theory. In other words, the focus on how trauma, stress AND resilience live in our bodies, inside our central nervous systems, and that we have an opportunity, through various experiences and strategies, to not only process and heal trauma but restore and nurture resilience. We’ve found success implementing these theories through movement activities, yoga, mindfulness exercises, expressive arts, breath work, play, etc.

What are 2-3 quick tips readers can begin implementing into their care today?

Assess social-engagement.

  • For yourself:
    • Check in with yourself. When you work with clients/students are you in an activated state of arousal, a collapsed state and shut down or, are you engaged?
  • For your client/student:
    • Is the child or adult you are working with in an activated state of arousal, a collapsed state and shut down or, are they engaged?

Engage the central nervous system through the use of sensory based experiences.

  • Do you need to help engage your client? Play music, get up and move, take a walk, have them check in with the sensations they feel in their bodies, or invite them to take a few deep breaths.
  • Do you need to help your client get into a calmer state? Color in a picture, play in a tray of sand, or invite them to stretch or move into some calming yoga poses

To learn more from Dr. Soma, visit our courses page, featuring the recently updated Children of Trauma and Resilience. Dr. Soma is also featured in many on-site events, including our conference tour.

New Tools, Trusted Resources – Starr Trauma & Resilience Summer Conference Schedule

“When I was a high school counselor, I was desperate for help with grieving and traumatized students. What I found with Starr Commonwealth training was perfect. It has dramatically changed how I deal with students as a teacher, counselor, and in policy making decisions as a school board trustee.”

– Linda Duran, Texas Educator

“Any adult who works with children would benefit from attending Starr’s Trauma & Resilience Conference. It allows child case workers, general education teachers, social workers, juvenile probate officers and more to be in the same room, all with the goal of helping young people thrive. The curriculum resonates with educators and is a powerful model for teachers of all students. The perspective gained from Starr’s conferences is unparalleled.”

- Julie McDaniel-Muldoon, Michigan Educator

If you are as driven to heal as Linda and Julie, as well as thousands of others who have benefitted from Starr’s training, this summer provides exciting opportunities to become a more trauma-informed professional. We will be offering conferences in both Texas and Michigan in the near future, and we would love for anyone who is focused on building resilience in our children to attend. Course registration includes a guidebook, CPEs, CEs, and lunch. For a full overview of our conference schedule and to register for an event, visit starr.org/training-schedule.

If you can’t join us at our conferences, please consider taking one of Starr’s online courses or bringing a Starr trainer directly to you for an in-person training.

Introducing the 2019 Stand Tall Award Winners!

This year, Starr Commonwealth will be hosting the third annual Night of Starrs, an evening to celebrate and illuminate the greatness in all. At this event, Starr presents the Stand Tall Award to champions for children in our local communities, with previous winners hailing from Albion, Marshall and Battle Creek. We are proud to announce that on Thursday, April 11, we will be honoring Dr. Harry Bonner of Albion, Mich., Tom Franke of Marshall, Mich. and Kim Carter of Battle Creek, Mich. as the 2019 Stand Tall Award winners.

Dr. Harry Bonner is an Albion High School graduate who serves as the head of Substance Abuse Prevention Services, an organization in Albion dedicated to preventing and reducing substance abuse by youth in high-risk populations through community engagement. Substance Abuse Prevention Services also operates the Kids at Hope Youth Development Center, an organization that works to create an environment where all children can experience success. Through his leadership and service to his community and the children in it, Dr. Bonner received the Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement in Community Service Award, the South Central Michigan Substance Abuse Commission Distinguished Service Award and an Albion High School Distinguished Alumni Award.

Tom Franke has been a driving force for the preservation and advancement of the Marshall community for decades. A key advocate for the Marshall Public Schools, Mr. Franke has helped to support and expand expressive arts programs and school safety initiatives within the district and has inspired and supported numerous scholarship funds throughout the years. His leadership was instrumental in preserving what is now the Franke Center for the Arts, a community gathering place where children and adults alike are inspired to discover their voice, share their talents and celebrate creativity. Mr. Franke currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Franke Center for the Arts, played an integral role in establishing the Marshall Community Foundation and remains committed to finding new ways to support the positive development of the community and youth of Marshall.

Kim Carter is a lifelong educator who now serves as the superintendent for Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS). In her role, she has lead with courage to find new and creative ways to support the growing needs of her students, teachers and community at-large. Her drive to create new pathways for success for students lead to the formation of the Bearcat Health Leadership Team, a cross-collaborative effort of community leaders to improve the behavioral health of Battle Creek youth. In addition, Superintendent Carter has been instrumental in bringing new investments to BCPS, receiving contributions from local foundations to ensure that every Bearcat student has a chance to achieve their greatness.

We are excited to honor these community leaders at our third annual Night of Starrs, and we hope you will join us on Thursday, April 11, 2019, as we present them with the Stand Tall Award. Tickets are available online at www.starr.org/NightofStarrs-Tickets.

Introducing Starr’s New Store and eLearning Platform!

Starr Commonwealth is excited to announce a series of web-based changes the team has been anxiously waiting to tell the public – the creation of a new online store and eLearning platform!

The online store is a resource for teachers, social workers, therapists and other professionals to expand their training in the areas of trauma informed care, crisis intervention, mind body skills and more. The new design has an easy to navigate layout that will help people find the courses and content they are looking for faster, as well as providing previews of other courses that may interest them.

With the new store, customers will be able to search for and purchase products and online courses more easily, as well as offering an updated format to register for conferences. The new design has an easy to navigate layout that we hope will solve any issues that people looking for courses have come across in the past.

Along with the store, Starr has rolled out a new eLearning platform, establishing a stronger site for customers to take online courses from trained professionals and experts in the field of trauma informed, resilience focused care. Equally exciting is the new content the Starr team has been hard at work creating to ensure that the best information and most engaging videos possible are at your fingertips! Throughout the year, new courses will continue to roll out, and the team is eager for you to experience each.

As with any switchover, there may be some hiccups along the way, but Starr’s staff is committed to helping customers quickly navigate through the sites and providing the best customer service possible. We hope this will make the process smooth for our new and returning customers.

If you would like to visit our new store, please go to www.starr.org/store. If you have any questions about the store or eLearning platform, please reach out to us at info@starr.org. The team at Starr is always happy to hear from you!

The Mitten Word Donates Books to Starr Students

As a member of the American Bookseller Association, The Mitten Word Bookstore in Marshall, Mich. had a unique opportunity – to receive multiple books for the purpose of donating to local schools and educational programs to encourage young readers. Jim Donahue, the owner of The Mitten Word, chose to give this amazing gift to the students in Starr Commonwealth’s residential and community-based programs.

In total, Jim and Shannyn, the Events Manager at The Mitten Word, brought almost fifty copies of Jason Reynolds’ book, Ghost, to our Albion campus. These books will be distributed among students in the Youth Assistance Program (YAP) in Detroit and Starr Albion Prep.

Ghost was a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature and was nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read. The novel is the first in the Track series, and follows Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw as his talent for running from his past lands him a spot on an elite middle school track team. With themes of facing your fears and working to become part of a team, this novel is one that Starr students can relate to.

“I love to read. I read all the time. I’m probably going to finish this tonight,” said one student as he looked through the donated book. To prove it, he opened his backpack and pulled out several books that he had recently gotten from the library. Jim and Shannyn looked at what he was reading and talked to the group about different books and authors, making suggestions of ones that might interest them.

With these books, students will have the opportunity to create small book clubs in their cottages at Starr Albion Prep or as a YAP group activity, to discuss how they relate to Ghost’s experiences  – and thus how they relate to each other. In addition, those who are seeking a more personal journey with Jason Reynold’s story will be provided a safe space to explore independently.

Jim and Ginny Donahue opened their bookstore to help with the literacy rates in Calhoun County. With donations like these, students in Calhoun County and across Michigan have more opportunities to discover a love of reading. Thank you to our friends at The Mitten Word for thinking of the students here at Starr Commonwealth!

Detroit Students Tour Wayne State University

Detroit Students Tour Wayne State University

Earlier this month, students from Starr Commonwealth’s Youth Assistance Program (YAP) and Lincoln Park Public Schools had the opportunity to take a tour of Wayne State University. Funded by a grant from Wells Fargo, this trip opened up a dialogue for students on what furthering their education can do for them, and got many of them thinking about the possibility of going to college.

Located in the city of Detroit, Wayne State University was a natural first choice for a college visit for these students. Not only was it a short bus ride from school, but many of the staff members who work with students on a regular basis graduated from or currently attend Wayne State University. Showing these kids the pride someone can have in their school brought a new element to the experience for both the staff and the students.

During the tour, students visited the recreation center, the library, the bookstore, the student center and the Old Main building, which houses the planetarium. At each location, students learned about what college life was like and had the opportunity to ask staff members questions about the facilities, the application process and the services provided to help students succeed.

“I hadn’t really thought about college much,” one student said while on the tour, “but seeing what it’s like, and actually being here… I’m starting to think about what I want to do with my life, and what I need from a school.”

Offering opportunities like this one allows Starr to show students the amazing futures that they are capable of having, and gives them a chance to expand their horizons by seeing new things and meeting people with different stories than their own. You can help students continue to have these experiences by supporting Starr Commonwealth.

Starr Commonwealth team

Starr Receives Expedited Accreditation Through Council on Accreditation

Starr Commonwealth has achieved national accreditation through the New York-based Council on Accreditation (COA). Upon review of Starr’s policies, procedures and programs over the past four years, COA’s peer review team recommended expedited approval for Starr for meeting all compliance ratings in COA’s fundamental practice standards. The Accreditation Commission has approved this recommendation, confirming Starr as an outstanding provider of care that meets the highest performance standards within the field of human services.

The standards driving accreditation ensure that Starr’s trauma informed, resilience focused services are well-coordinated, culturally competent, evidence-based, outcomes-oriented, and provided by a skilled and supported workforce. COA accreditation also demonstrates accountability in the management of resources, setting standardized best practice thresholds for service and administration, and increasing organizational capacity and accountability by creating a framework for ongoing quality improvement.

“COA’s program of quality improvement is designed to identify providers that have met high performance standards and have made a commitment to their stakeholders to deliver the very best quality services,” said Richard Klarberg, President and CEO of COA. “COA is proud to recognize Starr Commonwealth as an outstanding provider of care, and we wish them the very best in continuing their work with the individuals they serve.”

“Receiving expedited accreditation through COA is a testament to the dedication and passion of our team at Starr,” said Elizabeth Carey, President and CEO of Starr Commonwealth. “It is an incredible honor to receive this recognition, just as it is an honor to continue to build strength, resilience and hope in the children, communities and professionals we serve, every day.”

Friends of Starr Donate Baskets to Students on our Albion Campus

Every year, Starr Commonwealth encourages our friends and family to give back during the holiday season. Some choose to adopt a family in need, while others make donations to nonprofit organizations that are near and dear to their hearts. This year, friends of Starr pitched in to create holiday baskets for all of the students on our Albion campus.

Supporters of Starr – including several board members – decided to make a difference by getting together with their friends, family and coworkers to adopt a cottage on our Albion campus. With twelve cottages open, there were plenty to choose from, and some people decided that their hearts were large enough to adopt more than one.

These generous patrons provided games, crafts, movies, snacks and cherished items like ranch dressing to the students who will be with Starr for the holidays, with the idea of brightening our students’ days and making them feel like a part of our family. There were so many donated items that each of the twelve cottages will receive two baskets: one with food and the other with entertainment. The baskets of goodies will be delivered to each cottage in time for the students to be able to enjoy all of the gifts.

Thank you to each person who thought of our students this holiday season; your gift means more than you may know to the students who are in our care.

Thank you

Thank You for Supporting Starr on Giving Tuesday!

Thank you to everyone who chose to lead with courage and support Starr Commonwealth this year for Giving Tuesday! We had friends from across the country lift their voices in support of Starr, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

We were able to raise over $12,000 for Giving Tuesday this year, including our generous $3,000 match from Joe and Clara Stewart and their family. We had an ambitious goal of raising $15,000, and while we didn’t achieve it, we are not disappointed; we are thankful. We are thankful for everyone who was a champion for Starr and shared stories about our organization and our mission. We are thankful for every donation that came in, great and small. Mostly, we are thankful that we are able to continue to create positive experiences so that children, families and communities can flourish.

So thank you again to everyone who had a hand in helping us to raise money on this national day of giving; it means so much to us that you believe in our mission as much as we do.

As Uncle Floyd used to say, “These are not MY children, they are YOUR children. YOU are the ones who have made this work possible.”

You Can Help Starr Lead With Courage This Giving Tuesday

For the past several years, Starr Commonwealth has participated in Giving Tuesday – a global day of giving. Falling on November 27th, this day of generosity creates an opportunity for people to show their support for the organizations and causes that matter most to them, and to encourage their friends and family to follow their lead. As you consider which organizations you would like to share your support with this year, we hope that Starr will be one of them.

To add to the excitement and impact of this great day, Starr recently received a match gift from Joe and Clara Stewart, recipients of the Oneness of Humankind Award, and their family. Three generations of Stewarts have committed to supporting Starr over the years, initially drawn to the organization because of our dedication to children and promoting racial healing and equity throughout the world and our one human family.

The Stewarts have generously offered a $3,000 match goal, which means that they will match every donation up to that total amount. This gift brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal of $15,000, but we still have a lot of ground to cover!

As Uncle Floyd would often state, “These are not MY children, they are YOUR children. YOU are the ones who have made this work possible.”

Help us continue to make our work possible by making a donation on the 27th or by lifting your voice and sharing your support for Starr on social media. Your investment will help continue to transform lives, unlock greatness and build a strong, healthy future for all.

Together, we can lead with courage. Together, we can help all flourish!

105th celebration

Celebrating 105 Years of Starr

This October, Starr Commonwealth celebrated 105 years of creating positive experiences for children, families and communities with a fundraising event at the Detroit Zoo’s Wildlife Interpretive Gallery.

The open gallery was decorated with over a hundred butterflies, each brought to life by a student in Starr’s programs. Suspended above the crowd as if in flight, they symbolized the positive transformation each child has seen in themselves since becoming a part of the Starr family.

During the program, four courageous students took to the stage to perform spoken word pieces they written. Each painted a picture for the crowd of the difficult situations that they found themselves in before coming to Starr, and how staff are helping them transform into the people they were meant to be.

After those brave performances, Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Caelan Soma introduced Lincoln Park Public Schools (LPPS), winner of the 2018 Child Advocacy Award. LPPS have been working for the past year to transform their district and personnel into trauma informed professionals, emphasizing the importance of meeting the social and emotional needs of their students. Superintendent of LPPS, Terry Dangerfield, accepted the award, saying, “We stand tall for children because they are our future. If we don’t do this work for them, then who will?”

The next award was the 2018 Starr Alumni President Emeritus Award, which was presented by current Starr Board of Trustee member, alumnus and President of the Starr Alumni Association, Stanley Allen. Stanley spoke about the how the Alumni Association started, how it has grown and how it has become a family that offers ongoing support to its members through scholarships, networking and volunteer opportunities.

Stanley presented the awards to Dr. Jim Pelt and George Wilson, two former Starr Alumni Association Presidents. They each spoke about what they had learned from Starr and how it has shaped them into the adults they are today. “Most of the people in this room did not have the opportunity to know Uncle Floyd,” Jim said. “He was a great man – small in stature, but large in heart.”

Ken Ponds, former chaplain at Starr’s Albion campus and current Associate Trainer for the Starr Global Learning Network, introduced the final award of the evening. He presented the Oneness of Humankind Award to Joe and Clara Stewart for their lifelong dedication to healing the human family.

During their acceptance speech, Joe took a moment to direct the audience towards the balcony, where the four students who had spoken earlier in the program were watching. As one, he asked the crowd to turn, lift their voices and tell the students, “I love you,” a reminder that there will always be people who care for them. It was an incredibly powerful moment that evening.

Thanks to generous sponsors and guests, over $140,000 was raised on this momentous evening, which will continue to build resilience in all the children, families and professionals served. This great work could not be done without those who stand tall with Starr.

If you would like to make a donation and stand tall with Starr, please visit www.starr.org/donate.

For more photos from the event, check out our Facebook page.

Thank you to Our Gold and Silver Sponsors!

105th gold and silver sponsors

Thank you to Our Bronze Sponsors!

105th bronze sponsors

The Power of Service with the Starr Alumni Association

George Wilson and Dr. Jim Pelt, former Starr Alumni Association Presidents

The Starr Alumni Association has been an asset for former students for many years, providing not only a network but an emotional support system for our youth after they leave our programs. While planning our Alumni Cookout, we had the opportunity to talk with two former presidents of the Alumni Association, Dr. Jim Pelt and Mr. George Wilson, about their dedication to Starr and what the Alumni Association means to them.

Dr. Jim Pelt, who was a Starr student from 1955 to 1957, was the first president of the Starr Alumni Association, and worked with former Starr president Arlin Ness to establish the group. “I attended Founder’s Day, there were some other alums, and we started talking.” Jim said. “We started getting together once a month on the Albion campus, about a half a dozen of us, and talked about an Alumni Association.” Encouraged by Arlin Ness, who knew of Uncle Floyd’s desire to establish such a network, Jim and a large group of former Starr boys held their first formal meeting, and Jim was elected to be the first president of the association.

With this role came a position on the Starr Board of Trustees, and Jim served in both functions for eleven years. He was succeeded by George Wilson, who was a Starr student on our Albion campus from February of 1961 to August of 1962.

Before becoming the Alumni Association president, George and his wife visited Kutsche Cottage on a monthly basis to mentor students. “That’s when I saw what I believed to be some real promising things that were happening,” George remembered. “They had meetings in cottages at the end of each day where they would have to resolve any personal issues that they had with one another and be open and candid about discussing problems that they had. I became quite impressed with that.”

Both men spoke of how Uncle Floyd instilled in them a drive to give back. “The most important thing, I would say, when we think about giving back, is that it’s always about service. Serving other people, which was what Floyd Starr was,” George said about their desire to give back to the students.

“George and I were very fortunate in that we knew Uncle Floyd,” Jim explained. “Students today only hear about him – they didn’t know him. He was a powerful individual. Not a big man – small in stature – but a giant.”

Dr. Jim Pelt and George Wilson will both be receiving the 2018 Starr Alumni President Emeritus Award at Starr’s 105th Anniversary Celebration. For more information about the event, please visit www.starr.org/105.