Camelot Academy of Escambia County Uses Trauma-Informed Care to Heal the Hurting Student
Camelot Education’s commitment to the academic and social successes of its students is rooted in a foundation of compassion, patience, and dedication from its staff. Through the efforts of its educators across the country, Camelot excels in reengaging and preparing students for success in K-12 and beyond.
Camelot Academy of Escambia County, a K-12 school in Pensacola, Florida, reengages at-risk students with a focus on trauma-informed care, practices that promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. This practice begins by understanding that a young person’s negative behavior can be an expression of how that child is responding to external triggers which negatively impact them, such as home, neighborhood, school, or exposure to crime, poverty, and hunger.
“It’s very important to understand the students who come to us and that each is experiencing a different level of trauma,” said Julia Venturi, director of student services. “Some of our children come from homes where drug use or alcoholism is, or was, prevalent. Some of them may have been homeless. Trauma-informed care helps us to help them overcome the damages of those experiences and show them that they can excel in life. Trauma-informed care is an evidenced-based means of looking at the student’s overall development and understanding the number one, unique risk factor for that student. We recognize that the youths we serve might have experienced several traumatic events in their lives that inhibit their ability to learn.”
Camelot Academy of Escambia County provides an avenue for remediation and acceleration for students experiencing disciplinary violations. Students in this program were referred by their home campus to improve their behavior, attendance, and academics.
During Camelot’s summer professional development workshops, staff members were certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid. Trauma-informed care is now the adopted campus-wide mentality. Venturi will give four quarterly trainings this school year, on this and related topics, to increase awareness of mental health challenges and supports for students.
Venturi explained that trauma-informed care is a family service system of understanding the direct consequences of how trauma affects all aspects of a student’s life. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess the association between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being, states that almost two-thirds of the study participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction, and more than one in five reported three or more such experiences.
Venturi, who has a Masters in Social Work from Florida State University, said some of the students she engages with have potentially experienced hunger and different forms of abuse. As a school, part of Camelot Academy of Escambia County’s mission is to apply a support structure to the families of the students, many of whom have been touched by the justice system.
“It’s essential to understand that these are not bad kids,” Venturi said. “Their behavior is a cry for help. Our job is to help them increase their ability to cope. We have to reach at-risk children as early as possible. I remember one student we had who came from out of state. His grandmother had custody and he had severe behavioral problems; very aggressive and closed off. We got him into counseling and communicated constantly with his guardian. Just before they moved from Florida, he started showing improvement. It got to the point where he was becoming one of our student leaders. When his family moved, I was confident he was headed in the right direction.”
Venturi was attracted to work at Camelot Academy of Escambia County because of the opportunity to incorporate social work, one of her passions, into the role. She can’t imagine doing anything else.
“Is this work challenging? Yes, definitely, but it’s also incredibly rewarding,” she said. “We’re working with scarred young people, but getting them to the point where they begin to flourish makes it worth the effort. There’s a lot of chaos in some of their lives, but when they see a way through all of that, you know you’ve helped them make a very important change. If there’s going to be a positive change in this world, we need to be that change.”