Posted: Mar 10, 2011 5:47 PM by Angela Douglas - Q2 News
Updated: Mar 10, 2011 5:56 PM
HARLOWTON - At first glance there's nothing unusual about Mr. Ashley's 8th grade health class... until you notice Behavioral Specialist, Luke Stevens, on a TV screen, interacting with the students.
In an effort to build resilience among its students, Harlowton school district has teamed up with the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch via tele-video.
"We're cut off from the rest of the world unless we do something like this with technology," explains Outreach Grant Coordinator for Wheatland Memorial Healthcare, Jean Wallace. "We don't have access to mental health services."
Funded by a three year federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, the program is now in its second year at Harlowton.
The students are responding well to the "techy" approach.
8th grader Taelor Huck says the program is fun and it's "cool" having a teacher through the television.
Huck's classmate, Kayla McCarthy, agrees.
"I can see how lucky I am to be able to have people from Billings actually focus on a small town like us," McCarthy says.
The need for the program was realized after Harlowton began to see an increasing rate of depression and suicide within the community.
Stevens works with troubled youth on a daily basis at the ranch and says the curriculum is necessary.
"It helps kids build skills so that when they face those difficult situations, the support's already built in to respond positively instead of going down the path of drugs and alcohol," Stevens explains.
Focusing on 7th, 8th, and 9th graders, the weekly class engages the students with real-life scenarios.
"The lesson is teaching us adversity, which is a big thing in life because adversity helps you bounce back from problems," says 8th grader, Jared Burreece.
McCarthy chimes in.
"Maybe family problems or friends or whatever," she says.
Classmate, Boyd Pletan, agrees.
"Even if there's something that goes wrong in life, you're able to bounce back and possibly make it right," Pletan states.
The Harlowton and YBGR partnership is the only program of its kind statewide and Wallace says it could work in other schools.
"We're really excited about how the curriculum's going," Wallace says. "So I don't see why it couldn't be replicated anywhere."