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Independence Elementary hosts Kaiser's Seeing is Believing event

Presentation to teachersCherry Creek Schools has been a recipient of the RISE grant from Kaiser Permanente for over seven years. This grant empowers schools to create safe and supportive learning environments by strengthening the Whole Wellbeing of staff and students. CCSD uses its RISE grants to fund their partnership with Resilient Futures at eleven schools throughout the district. 

This year, Independence Elementary School was selected to host the Kaiser Permanente Seeing is Believing event to represent CCSD. School professionals from inside and outside the district were invited to learn and explore the numerous steps that Independence has taken to excel in their sense of belonging and Whole Equity in a bag kit with different color bandaids Wellbeing among staff, students, and community members. 

“It’s a nice acknowledgment to the staff and all the hard work we have done around trauma-informed practices and cultural humility and our work around sense of belonging,” said Independence principal Lisa Morris. “It’s great that we’re able to share some of those successful approaches with other schools and other districts.”

When Independence began their journey to increase their community’s sense of belonging, they set four goals:

  1. Improve job satisfaction among staff 

  2. Increase connectedness, relationships, and engagement among the school community 

  3. Increase social-emotional learning practices 

  4. Expand mental health support 

Safe Space room with bean bag The Resilient Futures partnership has provided many tools and trainings to help Independence reach their goals. Resilient Futures supports schools on their journey of implementing and sustaining trauma-informed, equity-focused practices by sharing foundational training for school staff.

“I have been working with them closely for the last 3 years,” said Dr. Laura McAurthur, Co-Founder of Resilient Futures and liaison to Independence. “We have an implementation team of 8 people from the building that are instrumental in moving the work forward—really champions of the work. We meet monthly for a few hours to dig deeper and plan what content and activities we’re taking back to the full staff, and each of the 8 members on the implementation team leads a group within the building that they stay connected to and really support the development of their practices.”

One of the most transformational practices that Independence has started is ensuring that each student has at least one deep, meaningful connection with a staff member in the building. 

“Being very intentional and making sure that all students have someone that they feel deeply connected with here in our school has been invaluable to building a sense of belonging for students. Hopefully they have multiple connections. We want to make sure that they all feel seen, heard, and valued in our school,” said Principal Morris. 

Independence has also developed classroom meetings at the beginning of the day, music in the classroom, family connection meetings, and the Youth Equity Learners and Leaders group, in order to increase community sense of belonging. 

“Being intentional around our staff's sense of belonging is also crucial,” said Principal Morris. “I think making time to make connections across grade levels and across teams is what has helped our positive culture in the building among staff—making sure that we have that connection and that sense of belonging among one another.”

Independence values Whole Wellbeing among staff in order to best serve their students. The staff all participate in connection circles at staff meetings and monthly connection activities to take care of one another and themselves.