These local school districts are using $10 million to offer mental health support

Ten local school districts are starting to use the $10 million in grant money they received to help with social and emotional supports. The project — originally called Supporting Expansion and Enhancement of K-12 School-Based Social, Emotional Supports, now shortened to Project SEEKS SES —  is a collaborative effort with the Allegheny County Health Department and Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

The Cornell School District in Coraopolis got almost $600,000 and is using it to create two wellness rooms – one for elementary and one for high school students.

The schools will also have counselors from Wesley Family Services and interns from Duquesne University who are counselors in training, who will work with the students individually and in lessons.

Cornell Superintendent Dr. Aaron Thomas says research shows young people need help, both with existing mental health issues and after-effects from the pandemic.

“Kids aren’t driving like they used to. Kids aren’t working as much as they used to, kids aren’t dating as much as they used to, and I think through those experiences, they’re not kind of having those lived experiences that maybe people have had in the past,” Thomas says. “So I think it is kind of fallen on the shoulders of the districts to provide these types of supports, provide these types of lessons because kids aren’t living it anymore and kind of figuring it out on their own.”

Cornell School District knows teachers need help, too, and is using the money for an updated teachers’ lounge which will also serve as a space for professional development.

Nine other school districts — Duquesne City, East Allegheny, Highlands, McKeesport Area, Penn Hills, Steel Valley, Sto-Rox, West Mifflin Area and Woodland Hills — are sharing the $10 million grant – mostly lower-income school districts. They grant is designed to address COVID-related trauma, behavior and mental health issues.