President's Message: Inspiration in Small Steps
Volume 45 Issue 3
By Melissa Reeves
There are many exciting aspects to being NASP president, but greatest among them are the opportunities I have to be inspired by the individuals who are taking steps to change the lives of children every day.
I have the privilege of traveling the country to meet with and learn from school psychologists serving as change agents despite tremendous challenges. I was honored to help kick off the beginning of the year for all 175+ school psychologists in the Chicago Public Schools and showcase how NASP resources and professional development opportunities can help them meet the complex needs of their students. They are doing tireless work for some of our most at-risk students. Despite the obstacles they are facing (e.g., 17 school psychology positions unfilled, highest murder rate in years, no contract yet due to financial crisis), their energy level is inspiring!
As another example of our colleagues in action, the Jefferson County Public Schools (KY) school psychologists have been leaders in the district's efforts to help students cope with community violence. Their work in providing direct support to students after multiple student deaths by gunfire in the community was highlighted in a recent news article (http://www.wdrb.com/story/32849046/jcps-crisis-teams-helping-students-cope-with-recent-violence). Their leadership is critical to mitigating the traumatic impact of violence and helping students overcome adversity, and advocating for the importance of school psychologists.
Equally inspiring is the collaborative work of NASP leaders on behalf of our members. These people are busy practitioners, graduate educators, and students who volunteer their time to make NASP the change agent that it is. The recent resources on social justice and privilege are such an example. Thank you to the Multicultural Affairs Committee and the School Safety and Crisis Response Committee for their leadership on this effort and for the tools they have given me as an individual and professional. I write more about this in a Viewpoint article on page 19.
I also have the honor of representing NASP at conferences of other professionals where I get to meet leaders in other fields working to lower barriers and improve the safety, mental health, and learning of all students. I am committed to cross collaboration and want to bring the work and insights of these inspiring people to you as much as possible. I have invited three guests to speak at the NASP 2017 Annual Convention in San Antonio.
Dr. Tererai Trent, our keynote speaker, grew up in rural Zimbabwe where education was mostly reserved for males. She was married and had three children by the time she was 18. She refused to be deterred by the traditional roles and cultural norms for women, so she taught herself to read and write from her brother's school books. Ultimately, she emigrated to the United States, earned multiple degrees, and built a school in Zimbabwe to educate local children. To empower even more children, she has launched the “My Dream Can” educational program to promote children's literacy and social and emotional development. For more information, visit: http://tererai.org. Her tenacity shows how one person can change the lives of those across the world!
Michele Gay, the Distinguished Lecturer, will share her story of losing her daughter Josephine Grace in the Sandy Hook tragedy. While she has experienced unimaginable grief, she has also become one of the greatest advocates for school safety and school mental health services. She will share her story of resilience, faith, and turning a personal tragedy into great advocacy. She cofounded Safe and Sound Schools and has partnered with school communities across the country; national school safety experts; and mental health, fire, and law enforcement professionals to increase the physical and psychological safety of our schools. She is working tirelessly to fulfill one of the last promises she made to her daughter, “I will never give up.”
Julia Cook is author of my favorite children's books when it comes to working with classrooms and conducting counseling and psychoeducational groups. Her books cover a variety of topics from grief, anxiety, depression, and bullying to being addicted to social media, trouble controlling anger and oppositional-defiant behaviors. Her most recent book titled The Judgmental Flower does a beautiful job of teaching children about acceptance, celebrating diversity, and noticing how we all have similarities. She will be providing guidance on how to use her resources in the two sessions she will be presenting at the convention.
These are just a few examples of the inspiring individuals, like you, who are taking small steps to change lives. I hope to see many of you taking big steps to get to San Antonio!
Melissa Reeves is the president of the National Association of School Psychologists