CSCOE initiative shines a light on student mental health

By Debbie Musser

Social and emotional well-being is essential for student success in the classroom.

Since July 2020, the Catholic Schools Center for Excellence’s (CSCOE) Peace of Mind mental health and wellness initiative has equipped Catholic schools with support and resources.

“Through our partnership with Phoenix School Counseling, Peace of Mind gives schools a menu of options to best support their school communities,” said Brian Ragatz, CSCOE president.

The Phoenix School Counseling team is led by Dr. Jules Nolan, a licensed psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist. Dr. Nolan and her team provide:

  • Live and recorded webinars for educators and families
  • Videos
  • Presentations
  • In-person trainings
  • Resources for students

“The ‘Phoenix’ in our name refers to a human’s ability to rise from adversity and begin anew; we help students do just that by teaching them critical social and emotional skills,” said Nolan, president and owner of the Twin Cities-based organization.

A wide-reaching impact

During the 2021-22 school year, Peace of Mind provided more than 5,600 hours of school counseling and reached more than 9,000 teachers and parents with webinars. That’s double the numbers from 2020-21. In addition, a cohort of 10 partner schools received additional Peace of Mind resources, including on-site counselors. That number will expand to 21 partner schools this year.

Peace of Mind donor and campaign chair Lisa Anderson is thankful that CSCOE is successfully meeting the needs of children facing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

“It’s exciting and rewarding to shine a light on how important this initiative is and to see 11 more schools with counselors on-site,” Anderson said of the partner-school initiative.

“Peace of Mind allows us to create healthy, positive and meaningful relationships that help students regulate intense emotions and create a positive learning environment focused on kindness, compassion and love,” said Dr. Jennifer Krieger, principal at Holy Spirit Catholic School in St. Paul, a Peace of Mind partner school.

Building a toolbox of resources

A Holy Spirit parent’s experience with Peace of Mind included evening sessions packed with insights. One-on-one sessions for her child and a counselor to talk about feelings built confidence related to academic struggles.

“The counselor provides the love and guidance needed to build a toolbox of resources,” she said. 

Phoenix School counselor Tiffany Johnson works with students at Roseville’s St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in individual, small-group and whole-class lessons.

“The relationship I have with the students and the collaborative relationship with the teachers allows students the space to address situations in the moment and find ways to problem-solve,” Johnson said. “I am there to walk alongside the students as they continue to see their greatness.” 

Parents’ and educators’ support for Peace of Mind

“I just watched the Peace of Mind webinar on ‘parenting pitfalls.’ This is why we chose Catholic education. The practical tips woven with our values of faith help me be a more confident parent. Thank you!” – Catholic school parent

“Dr. Nolan does a masterful job of balancing strong advice and well-articulated research foundations with gentleness and compassion toward parents.” – Catholic school parent and educator

“It helps to understand the brain science behind what happens in the classroom. Thank you for changing the way I think about behavior.” – Catholic school educator

“I learned more in one hour than in two years of therapy.” – Catholic school parent