Resilient Southern Illinois (RSI) is one of three initiatives of the statewide nonprofit, the Partnership for Resilience (P4R). Resilient SI and P4R work to improve academic, health, and social outcomes for children by fostering trauma-responsive schools and effective family, school, health, and community partnerships. Resilient SI is a multi-year effort in the southern Illinois region and strives to spread awareness and meet the needs of children impacted by childhood trauma and toxic stress. The initiative includes resources, tools, and networking opportunities for educators and other personnel in member districts that are designed to support the needs of the “whole child.” Tools and resources focus on primary care and wellness, trauma and behavioral health, and family and community engagement.
Resilient Southern Illinois (RSI) is a collaborative effort among area stakeholders which originally was brought forth as an educational initiative by the Southern Illinois PreK-20 Education Alliance chaired by Mary Jane Morris of the Illinois Education Association and composed of Stakeholders consisting of area educational institutions, ROE’s and businesses. Instrumental in the collaborative effort included Dr. Matt Buckman from the Stress and Trauma Treatment Center and Dr. Lori James-Gross from Unity Point School District #140 and others all working together to serve students and educators in Southern Illinois.
The focus of Resilient Southern Illinois is to build trauma-responsive, resilient schools and communities.
Students in classrooms across Southern Illinois face profound obstacles to learning due to “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs), which include verbal, physical or sexual abuse; family dysfunction (an incarcerated, mentally ill, or substance-abusing family member); domestic violence; or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation.
ACEs can harm children’s developing brains and change how they respond to stress. Over time, such traumatic stress can damage children’s immune systems in ways that show up decades later. ACEs cause chronic disease, mental illness, and are at the root of much violence. ACEs also interfere with a child’s ability to learn and be productive in school and life.
The Partnership for Resilience, an Illinois non-profit organization, received funding from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Poshard Foundation to build and support Resilient Southern Illinois (RSI). The program’s goal is to provide training and coaching to district/school-based resilience teams to build capacity among the staff at the schools to understand and respond to ACEs more fully. Teams will establish strategies to help students dealing with ACEs so the children can ultimately succeed in school. Resources being used include materials from the Partnership for Resilience and the By All Means initiative from the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Resilient Southern Illinois recognizes that the greatest impacts will be achieved when schools and community partners work together to address adversity and poverty. Therefore, RSI will work with districts to build community-school partnerships to bolster what the schools are doing.
Schools in these districts will move from being “trauma-informed” to becoming “trauma-responsive” schools in which all students feel safe, welcomed, and supported and where addressing trauma’s impact on learning is at the center of its education mission. Adults at these schools will be prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. Students’ academic needs will be met while supporting their physical health and well-being.