Rural School Counselor Trained through Zip Code Connection

Adriana Kirkindoff works with a student.

Kirkindoff helps pre-K to 12th graders deal with social, emotional problems

The children of Cheatham Elementary School and Clarksville Middle-High School in Clarksville, Texas, are benefiting from someone new in their lives — Adriana Kirkindoff, a licensed professional counseling intern.

Clarksville schools meet the state academic standards, but the district is still recovering from being placed on the state’s low-performing list for poor academic performance. Clarksville ISD, bordering the Red River, has made good progress in its two schools in the past few years, but many of its students are still struggling.

At Cheatham Elementary, with 280 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, 86 percent of the children are economically disadvantaged, qualifying for a free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day. At Clarksville Middle-High School, with 248 students in sixth through 12th grades, 89 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

In addition to academic issues, many also are plagued by social and emotional problems that interfere with their ability to succeed in school. Because of that, the Zip Code Connection applied for a Kendall Grant from the United Methodist General Board of Global Missions to provide a trained professional to assist the children and staff. There had been no mental health professionals working in Red River County full time.

Kirkindoff’s work is already paying off. So far she has:

  • Coached 20 teachers and staff on supporting children.
  • Held individual coaching sessions with 28 parents.
  • Involved 43 students in ongoing group counseling (More than 100 seen or engaged in at least one group session).
  • Counseled 256 students, or 48 percent of the student body, either individually or in groups in the first year.

“Adriana’s work with our students is showing positive results,” said Marianne Whitehouse, principal of Cheatham Elementary. “I am observing a decrease in discipline referrals for several students. These students are also exhibiting a more positive attitude when discussing their problems, which I attribute to their learning relaxation techniques as well as being more attuned to their thought processes.”

Kirkindoff’s presence on campus proved invaluable in two incidents:

  • An 8-year-old wrote increasingly dark messages on the bottom of her papers that she gave to her math teacher. The fourth message stated, “I want to kill me.” The teacher took the student to Kirkindoff, who explored whether the student was planning suicide. When it turned out she was, the situation was taken to the principal. The child’s aunt had attempted suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs only the week, raiding further alarm. The child’s mother and Texas Child Protective Services were notified, and the day ended with Kirkindoff having visited with all parties involved and getting services started for the girl.
  • A fourth-grade girl alleged that she had been raped by a high school student. CPS and the local police were contacted, and Kirkindoff is supporting the student and her mother as the investigation and criminal process continue.

The addition of a trained counselor to the school and community has improved the lives of students, their families, teachers, administrators, and staff. This would not have been possible without the generous Kendall Grant through the Zip Code Connection and The United Methodist Church.

For more information on how you can help support this work, email Andrew Fiser or call 972-526-5018. Or, to learn how you might support public schools, email Jurrita Williams  or call 972-526-5016.  

Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2018