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Starling Community Services.

From Empty Desks to Student Success

Benjamin Road Classroom
Benjamin Road Classroom

Thanks to the support of the Cowan Foundation, Lutherwood is reducing wait times and improving student performance in its day and live-in school programs.

For many years, each classroom at Lutherwood’s Children’s Mental Health Centre was dedicated to a specific mental health treatment program. However, changes in program enrollment sometimes resulted in empty desks in one classroom while other classrooms were full and had wait lists.

In 2017, a grant from the Cowan Foundation enabled Lutherwood to free up staff and resources to work with Waterloo Region District School Board teachers and design this better approach. As a result, the classrooms are organized based on literacy, learning and developmental abilities rather than program structure. The grant also helped the staff develop an assessment strategy, train staff, modify classrooms, hire a full-time supervisor to implement the new model, and develop and implement an evaluation plan.

The first evaluation results are very promising:

  • 29% more youth are being served than the year previous to the reorganization
  • 13% decrease in wait time to get into day treatment programs (now 27 days on average)
  • 42% decrease in physical and verbal aggression between youth
  • And some classroom workers and teachers note that youth are more engaged in their learning and have more support to meet their treatment goals.

“We work with students whose mental health needs are greater than what can be met in our community elementary and high schools,” said Emily Cullen, Waterloo Region District School Board Lead Teacher at Lutherwood. “We model behaviours and give them strategies to help them be more prepared to succeed in their community schools. We know that the sooner we support youth who are struggling, the more likely they are to succeed. That’s why it is so important to reduce wait times and accommodate as many students as possible.”

“The Cowan Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the work we do in our community,” said John Colangeli, CEO of Lutherwood, “We are very grateful to them for their support and for investing in the future of the youth in our community!”

Learn more about Lutherwood’s school program from CTV Kitchener’s recent interview with Emily Cullen on In Your Backyard.

"When I look back, I realize Safe Haven is just that, a safe place where you can stop, clear your head, and figure things out. I don't know what a lot of kids would do if Safe Haven wasn't there"