First Responders and Community Leaders Help Build Trust in Kindergarten Students

Staff Report

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

Kindergarteners at the Early Learning Center at Henderson E. Formey School participated in a “Touch the Truck” kick-off event on March 28 as part of a training program to build trust in first responders from a young age.
The students met with first responders and community leaders from the Savannah Police and Fire departments, along with Chatham County EMS and the District Attorney’s office, to learn about how those agencies help people and what the young scholars can do when they feel anxious or scared if they see a first responder in their neighborhood.
The program was created by a coalition formed in 2020, now known as Resilient Coastal Georgia, developed by the Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition (CGIC) in conjunction with Resilient Georgia and funded through a $600,000 grant from the Pittulloch Foundation to support mental health system change and policies for children, youth and families in the Savannah area. With CGIC as its lead agency, Resilient Coastal Georgia has since harnessed the power of 25 local stakeholders to develop and ensure systemic change.
“In our community and across the country, children are experiencing stress and anxiety at younger ages than ever before,” said Lizann Roberts, director of the CGIC. “The purpose of this training is to build trust in our first responders from a young age, and reinforce the ‘Six Pillars of Character Counts’ that the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System teaches to all students. It gives young scholars age-appropriate tools to help reduce their anxiety and stress.”
Approximately 17 million children in the U.S. have or have had a mental illness, but most are not treated. According to the Children’s Mental Health Report by the Child Mind Institute, 80% of children with anxiety are not receiving treatment, along with 40% of children with diagnosable ADHD/ADD and 60% of children with diagnosable depression. It is thought that as many as one in six U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/ hyperactivity.
The Six Pillars of Character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. According to the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, the Pillars were identified by youth experts in the 1990s as “core ethical values that transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences."
Each of the presenters at the kick-off event completed Resilient Coastal Georgia’s 3-hour Community Resiliency Model Training and was assigned one of the Six Pillars of Character Counts:
*Trustworthiness & Respect – Savannah Police
*Caring – Chatham County EMS
*Citizenship – A judge
*Fairness – A lawyer from the District Attorney’s office
*Responsibility – Savannah Fire
“We are striving to create a social movement in our community that builds resiliency by being trauma-informed and trauma-responsive,” said Roberts. “The first step to achieving this goal is to encourage those in the community to take advantage of this free training.”
The Community Resiliency Model Training program focuses on the impact of adverse childhood experiences and how they impact the brain. It also provides tools for youth to build resilience in spite of the trauma that may exist in their lives. The free 3-hour course is offered to anyone in the community. For more information, email [email protected].