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Telling the story of the CYFC-Bruce Vento School partnership

By Judy Myers, Extension educator with the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (retired)

The story of CYFC’s four-year partnership with the Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul is a remarkable one. Together we are making changes at the school to create a trauma-sensitive learning environment for students facing a host of special challenges.

Now we’re telling the Bruce Vento story through a website called “Fostering Resilient Learners at Bruce Vento Elemntary School.” The website, or story map as we in CYFC prefer to call it, depicts the work of Extension CYFC staff with school staff, neighborhood residents, community organizations, and others to transform the school physically and culturally for the benefit of students.

The story map, which was officially unveiled during an open house at the school in mid-December, highlights elements of the school’s transformation, including creation of a school garden and calming room and the expansion of on-site mental health services.

Why are these changes necessary? Because, as a fall 2016 MinnPost article said, many Bruce Vento students are affected by traumatic experiences “that run the gamut from having gone without meals at home to having lived in a refugee camp.” So things like a school garden, where students can connect with nature, and a calming room, where they can work through emotional outbursts in private, go a long way toward helping them de-stress and get in a frame of mind to learn.

The story map is a valuable communications tool for Extension and school staff alike. Bruce Vento Principal Scott Masini explained why he appreciates the website. He had been getting several calls a month from other principals wanting to learn more about creating a trauma-sensitive learning environment at their facilities. “Now I can refer them to the web story and then suggest they call me with specific questions after they view the story components,” he said.

I am proud to be part of the creative team involved with redesigning the Bruce Vento school and developing the story map. Some of us continue to work on projects with the school. We are: Emily Becher, research associate with the Extension Center for Family Development (FD); Judy Myers, retired Extension CYFC educator; Nicole Helgeson, graduate research assistant with FD; and Kristen Heimerl, independent communications and marketing consultant. We invite you to check out our story map soon!
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