Rochester, N.Y. (WROC) – As students and staff prepare to start a new school year in Rochester, the city school district’s trauma team is also getting ready to help the community cope with another summer of loss.
Over the last few months, the lives of several RCSD students were sadly taken to gun violence.
Before the start of the new school year, we sat down with those whose role it is to help students and staff day-to-day, and in times of grief.
Beyond academics, there’s a team of specialists at RCSD designated to respond to crises and provide social and emotional support day in and day out.
“We need staff that are there to be able to respond to trauma and what that looks like. How do we pinpoint it?” said Tamara Sheppard, a social worker for Rochester city schools.
With more than a decade of experience, Sheppard says her role has changed over the years to help meet the needs of students and staff.
Sheppard explains the difficulty for many to begin a new year without a classmate.
“We push into classrooms we know have been impacted by various things,” said Sheppard, “There’s going to be people with a lot of hurt, a lot of grief, a lot of frustration. We realize you have to affirm the heart before you can teach the mind. You can’t have it always be business as usual.”
Operation F.I.R.E. is one initiative that has started in the district, introducing male mentors to school hallways to offer students and staff a friendly face to begin each day.
When it comes to crises, volunteers are notified.
“I pray we don’t have any more incidents that involve our students, just so our volunteers are aware this affects students and staff. I’m praying things calm down,” said Tony Jordan, RCSD director of youth engagement.
With a few weeks until the start of school, Sheppard says her team is keeping an optimistic attitude for the future.
“In spite of everything that’s been happening, just having hope. If we’re hopeless, what do we have to look forward to?” asked Sheppard.
Meanwhile, Operation F.I.R.E. is seeking more male volunteers for the upcoming school year. Those interested are asked to contact the district.
The group will be holding a recruitment event in the near future as well.
RCSD’s trauma team also has numerous partnerships with a variety of community organizations for continued outreach.