Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative

President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, Travis Staton

Abingdon, VA (June 24, 2021) –  Throughout 2020, Southwest Virginia faced many new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is growing evidence showing that school closures and virtual learning have caused negative effects on the overall well-being of children. The Southwest Virginia Trauma-Informed Community Network (TICN) will work to empower schools through the Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative so that schools can expand recognition of trauma and reduce negative impacts of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on children. “This program utilizes United Way of Southwest Virginia’s cradle-to-career approach to support the social-emotional needs of a child early on, creating long-term resiliency in their life for years to come,” said Dr. Dennis Carter, Smyth County Schools Superintendent.  

The goal of the Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative is to create awareness around what it means to be trauma-informed, develop supports needed to provide resilience skills to students, and showcase education surrounding why those topics are important to our region. Danielle Dye, Community Resilience Manager, United Way of Southwest Virginia said, “This is United Way of Southwest Virginia’s way to create individualized support for the whole child, not just academic support alone.” She continued, “We are focusing on social-emotional learning and development, mental health for children and school staff, and we are creating opportunities to provide resources across our region to support these needs that may have been lost due to the pandemic.” The Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative will begin its first cohort in Fall 2021 in partnership with 5 school systems, including City of Bristol, Dickenson County, Smyth County, City of Norton, and Washington County. The second cohort begins in Spring 2022. Dr. Carter also said, “The Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative is benefitting from a local approach to develop solutions, ensuring our unique regional challenges are recognized while still meeting the VDOE statewide standards.”

“United Way of Southwest Virginia initiatives are focused on educational outcomes, but we also know that education isn’t bookwork alone; education needs to include physical and mental health as well,” said Travis Staton, President, and CEO, United Way of Southwest Virginia “The COVID-19 pandemic has made that more challenging; this work is needed now more than ever to provide pathways for schools to better serve children are experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).”  Ballad Health will provide professional development training services to support the efforts of United Way of Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF), and the Family and Children’s Trust Fund (FACT) also support the initiative through grants and other various resources. Nicole Poulin, Executive Director of the Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia, said, “This is a critical initiative.  We know that trauma disrupts the brain’s ability to learn; addressing and responding to that is essential to the mission and purpose of schools: to educate.”

President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, Travis Staton 

Danielle Dye, Community Resilience Manager for United of Way of Southwest Virginia

Dr. Dennis Carter, Smyth County Public Schools Superintendent  



United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life.  Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change.  With a footprint that covers nearly 20% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton, and Radford.

Back to School News       Print