School district highlights social workers during challenging time

Published 8:02 am Friday, March 18, 2022

NATCHEZ — March is National Social Work Month, where appreciation is shown to people who help people cope with challenges day-to-day. Last week, Natchez Adams School District highlighted school social workers who face the daily challenge of talking to school-age children about their emotional health.

This school year has been a particularly difficult one, they said, as the district deals with difficult situations from losing teachers to children impacted by hardship outside of school—such as abuse, neglect or the recent wave of gun violence in the community.

Concern for the mental and the emotional well-being of students has also heightened because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jasmine Coulston, a Natchez Adams School District social worker.

Email newsletter signup

“There is so much depression and it’s even worse after COVID,” she said.

Coulston works with Veronica, Jasmine Logan and Kelly Thomas to get to the bottom of emotional challenges students face.

“They were left at home because of COVID and school was their escape,” Thomas said. “School was their safe place where they got that hug or that ‘I love you’ from their teacher and that hot meal and some were left at home with dysfunction or just a breakdown family structure. It was really exposed during COVID and then to come back to school and try to readjust to a social setting is a challenge.”

One thing they each have in common is their passion for helping people, they said.

“We’re at the bottom of the totem pole trying to hold everyone else up,” Green said.

It doesn’t stop with students. The work that NASD social workers do reaches their families also.

As the dropout prevention coordinator, the youth court system provides Thomas with a list of students who’ve had excessive, unexcused absences from school and he knocks on doors to speak with them and their families about what is going on.

Thomas said it’s not uncommon for anyone on the social work team to make house calls.

“That’s all of us,” he said. “I went knocking on doors, finding kids, connecting with the community and finding out what is going on in the district. I think a lot of times the community doesn’t know what is happening and what is being done for our children and they get this perspective that nothing is happening when in fact we have this beautiful team here that is really putting their best foot forward to try and help our children. Giving them home and letting them know that somebody cares is the most important thing that we do.”

“That’s why this team was put together,” Green added. “We’re here for the students and their parents, families, teachers and whoever we need to be here for.”

Green said one thing that keeps them going through difficult times is humor.

“Humor is what we thrive on. Another thing I take pride in with this team is we don’t call for law enforcement to escort us. We go in homes and most of the time we go by ourselves.”

Some students are referred to school social workers by their teachers while others may refer themselves. The school district also utilizes an anonymous reporting app called “STOPit.”

“The main thing about being a social worker is confidentiality,” Green said. “I know how to keep things secret. … We deal with so many things and can give examples but never names.”