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New Hope-Solebury launches partnerships to support students’ mental health


New Hope-Solebury School District has launched a partnership with the Cook Center for Human Connection, a nonprofit organization committed to providing resources and support for those with mental health issues and their caregivers.

The district first began to focus on supporting students’ social-emotional wellness when it formed its strategic plan in 2019. The initial effort was in response to research suggesting that social-emotional health was connected to academic outcomes, and also, that social-emotional competency was considered highly desirable in the professional world. Then, a pandemic happened.

“What we saw with the pandemic was mental health challenges being exacerbated. Students had limited access to their peers and formative social experiences, and this had an obvious and very apparent effect on mental health,” explained Superintendent Dr. Charles Lentz.

“A very startling moment for all of us in education was the 2021 Pennsylvania Youth Survey, an anonymous survey administered by the state to evaluate student behaviors, attitudes, knowledge concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, violence, depression, and other risk factors,” said Colleen Bell, New Hope-Solebury’s supervisor of student services. “The data showed very clearly that across the state, students are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and depression and are contemplating, and actively planning, suicide. We knew we needed to expand upon the work we were already doing and provide the resources our students and families need.”

Armed with this mission, a team of New Hope-Solebury educators conducted a site visit in September 2022 to the Naperville Community Unit School District in Naperville, Ill. Naperville, like New Hope-Solebury, is part of a national collaboration assembled by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) called Learning 2025 and was featured as an exemplary district in meeting students’ social-emotional needs.

“While in Naperville, we were introduced to the Cook Center for Human Connection. We were encouraged by the value of this resource, the easy access, the privacy it afforded, and the resources are also made available in Spanish to help us serve even more families,” said Bell.

The Cook Center maintains an online knowledge base called, which enables parents to explore research and resources for supporting their children and provides free courses by licensed therapists. New Hope-Solebury has also hosted its own series of virtual presentations with credentialed members of the Cook Center team that all district parents and guardians can attend anonymously. Topics have included managing your child’s anxiety, navigating social media use, and an overview of mental health resources.

“We have received positive feedback from the families who attended these presentations, and we also make the recordings available for them to access later on our website.”

New Hope-Solebury has also partnered with a local organization, the Bucks County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI has provided a series of in-school presentations to help students identify mental health concerns in themselves and others and to learn about the resources available to them. While these presentations are offered with age-appropriate content to students starting in third grade, the high school assemblies give students someone they can identify with — often including a personal testimonial from a young person recovering from a mental health challenge. New Hope-Solebury is also one of the only districts in Bucks County to offer Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training for students, a practice for recognizing and responding to signs of suicide.

“Our district is committed to responding to the needs of the children in front of us. We are constantly evolving our practices to ensure they can learn at their best and leave us ready for whatever is next. These partnerships we have launched to support our students and their parents reflect that greater purpose,” said Superintendent Lentz.

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