Non-Profit Leadership: How do We Contextualize Programmatic Growth?

One important part of working with students who have some life struggles is to recognize the trending of their needs as we move through different generations. The students that we had in our care 30 years ago are very different from the students that we work with today. What that has meant is that we have made a myriad of changes to our programs in order to rise to meet those needs.

At Lakeside our program staff members have had amazing ability to build strong relationships with our students. They also are very clear about what our students are able to achieve and what the barricades are that keep them from success. As we educate them, help them with their rough behavioral moments and provide personal counseling we learn a great deal about their perspectives, struggles and capabilities.

As we review the results of each year, we spend time listening to our staff who listen to our students. We then attempt to redesign our programs to meet some of the challenges that they have faced in prior years. These evaluations give us insight into what new approaches we need to enact as we grow and develop our programs. In essence, our summers are spent in planning the next year with changes that we feel are important to meet the changing needs of our students.

Like no other time in our history have we seen this level of anxiety, depression and frustration like we have post-pandemic. As I have written before we have a significant mental health crisis in our youth community. Students have been out of school and out of life for two years. Many have not yet recovered from the social isolation and arrested development that they have experienced during the COVID-19 impact. They have a difficult time regulating, maintaining attention span in a classroom, with their impulsiveness and trying to control their emotions overall. All of this makes school a challenging place for students and for staff as they strive to build a safe, trauma-informed environment.

As our school staff process how we can best meet the needs of students with this set of circumstances, we have to be very specific how we address the issues that together they are facing. As non-profit leaders we need to empower our staff to design, plan and execute the next program components and approaches. We need to be compassionate, creative, focused and strategic to create new innovations and interventions that will be effective. As we work through our new strategies, we also need to be attentive and vigilant about the impact to our students and adjust accordingly. This contextualized approach will help our staff and students adapt to their changing needs.

The significant reality is that adaptability and change are essential in our efforts to meet student needs. We know certain ways to build successful relationships, but we also must consider what happened to our students in order to fulfill our mission to be trauma-informed and brain-based. Through this understanding, we meet them where they are.  We cannot build systems that have used the same methodology for education and clinical care that have been used in the past. As our societal environment changes so must we adapt as we consider the most effective strategies to help our students overcome their obstacles and find success that will impact them toward a fulfilling life. With these adjustments and changes, we can offer our students hope for their future.

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