Project EVERS (Ending Violence and its Effects in Rural Schools) was developed to meet the needs of students living in rural areas in northwest Kansas that have been affected by trauma or violence in their homes and communities. The goal of the five-year project is to train and equip school staff in 19 districts across Northwest Kansas to recognize and offer quality resources and referrals to address the fallout from any form of violence that may be affecting their students.
Project Prevent’s Director, Lora Thomas, and Trauma Specialist, Mick Thornton, credit the project’s success to their “bottom-up” approach to working directly with educators to introduce trauma-informed practices into classrooms and districts. This approach has successfully addressed educator frustration about classroom management, students’ pandemic-related behaviors, and shifts in administrative priorities that resulted in decreased administrative support and project leadership during and immediately following the pandemic, Project EVERS’ focus on professional development provides the foundation for working directly with educators to design and implement classroom strategies that support them as well as their students.
Project EVERS’ array of professional development opportunities for school staff offers quality training programs, effective utilization of resources, and deliberate collaborations with important community partners, including community colleges. They are working to increase knowledge of concepts not readily taught in teacher education preparation (i.e., childhood trauma, its effects on children, and resilience) and bringing those concepts alive in working with students. One example of such opportunities is book studies. Three studies to date have covered a wide range of perspectives for educators and students alike. EVERS has begun to train facilitators from districts to run book studies in their own district, offering sustainable school staff strategies of incorporating trauma-informed practices that support each district’s educational culture. For more information on book studies as well as other resources and training, visit the Project EVERS website: Resources | EVERS (projectevers.org).
Another key aspect of this “grass-roots” effort has been the utilization of “district coordinators,” or representatives from each district that help Project EVERS with dissemination of information, facilitation of professional development activities, and serve as liaisons to know – and share – all that is really happening on the ground. District coordinators engage in monthly meetings with Project EVERS staff and other districts to share successes and challenges. Thornton highlights the modeling aspect of these meetings as fundamental. Districts are motivated and encouraged by the work and progress of those around them. “If they can do it, so can I.”
Thomas and Thornton are working to ensure that the project will continue to integrate trauma-informed practices into their school districts by putting educators in the driver’s seat. By addressing the needs of staff, they are empowering them to better support students and desired outcomes.