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"It Takes a Village"– McKnight Bill Establishing K-3, School-based Mentoring Program Introduced in Assembly

3-Year Pilot to be Modeled after Rochester Resilience Project, Geared Towards
At-risk Students and Schools in Crisis Zones

Recognizing the importance of community and collaboration inspired by the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight has introduced legislation to establish a three-year pilot mentoring program. Modeled after the successful Rochester Resilience Project, the program would provide school-based mentoring to K-3 students at risk for mental health disorders and substance abuse.

“Children in our communities face a myriad of social ills that can lead to painful, life-long emotional and psychological scars,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Unfortunately, multi-faceted dynamics such as exposure to gun and other violence, as well as parents facing their own set of challenges, can have a negative impact on young lives. As a community, a village so to speak, we owe it to our children to step in and help.”

The bill (A-4565) calls for the Commissioner of Education to establish the pilot programs in “crisis zones” in Jersey City and six additional school districts. As defined by the bill, a crisis zone is an area within 1,000 feet of school property where gunfire has occurred in the previous school year.

The mentoring program’s curriculum would be designed to improve children’s social-emotional and behavioral skills. Through a series of weekly, one-on-one, 25-minute, hierarchically-ordered lessons, students would learn about emotions, resilience, coping skills and self-control.

“It is critical that we provide support for students who are at risk of mental health and emotional issues, as well as substance abuse,” said McKnight. “Mentors can help create a nurturing environment where students learn how to cope and become resilient, despite the challenges they face.”

As part of the bill, the Department of Education would provide grants to cover mentoring program expenses for participating schools that would be required to:

· Designate and train three to five mentors to facilitate the program
· Identify at-risk students to participate
· Use a curriculum approved by the commissioner
· Evaluate students at the beginning, midpoint and completion of the curriculum.

The bill was introduced in October and referred to the Assembly Education Committee. It now awaits further consideration from the Assembly.