The Partnership for Resilience grew out of a chance conversation between an experienced teacher union leader and a seasoned pediatrician – who happened to be siblings. Audrey Soglin, Executive Director of the Illinois Education Association, and David Soglin, Chief Medical Officer of La Rabida Children’s Hospital, discovered they were struggling to find adequate responses to the trauma that afflicts so many children in the classroom and in the health care system. David was aware of research in “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (or ACEs) that shows how traumatic experiences such as loss of a parent, witnessing violence, or having serious illness can impact the brain development of children – and trigger a host of other negative health consequences. The two began to assemble colleagues from their respective professions to explore how educators and physicians might work together to craft responses to childhood trauma.
Ultimately five partner organizations and three school districts were recruited for the effort. The school districts’ participation was critical because the partner organizations wanted to do more than talk about the issue of childhood trauma: They wanted to address it in some meaningful way.
With grant funding from Governor State’s Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant, the “Southland Education and Health Initiative” embarked on a year-long planning and action process. They first spoke with close to fifty educators and social workers in the three districts to uncover their particular concerns and interest. Three themes emerged that were consistent across the districts: Wellness and primary care, trauma and behavioral health, and family and community engagement. Three task forces were organized around these topics with doctors, educators and social workers as members. From January to May, 2015 over 60 people met monthly at Governors State University to learn from experts in each of these areas and to begin to fashion a set of initial responses.
The taskforce-organized projects unfolded over the summer months and included:
- A school district health care needs assessment
- Mental health first aid training
- Mindfulness for teachers training
- “ACEs: An Inter-Professional Approach to Creating Trauma-Informed Schools” conference
- “Creating Trauma-Informed Education and Health Care Systems” Conference
- “Parent University” Conference
In addition, each of the three participating school districts was invited to develop a set of initiatives suited to their own interests and priorities. They undertook such things as training with Dr. Eric Jensen’s “Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind,” running a parent/student summer art/technology program, a summer sports camp for students, and ACEs curriculum and training for teachers. Reflecting on these diverse and impactful activities, the TQP grant evaluator said “One of the most significant initiatives (of TQP) is the Southland Education and Health Initiative, which is gaining national interest.”
By the end of the summer it was clear to the partners that they had tapped a deep need and had begun to make progress in addressing it. The Southland work also came to the attention of the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education which brought its national perspective to the local work.
The Partnership for Resilience was incorporated as an Illinois non-profit corporation on January 22, 2016 and granted a federal non-profit tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) organization on May 23, 2017.