Glendale Unified has hired a psychological services provider to work full-time between Rosemont Middle School and Crescenta Valley High School to offer mental health support for students, thanks to a large donation to the school district.
Glendale Unified created the position only a few weeks ago after a Glendale resident donated $66,000 to help the school district provide mental health services through June.
Sam Solakyan learned there was a need for mental health services for students in La Crescenta from Sharon Townsend, executive director of Glendale Healthy Kids.
Townsend said she relayed to Solakyan incidents of local students who had committed suicide.
“He came up with an idea to provide a temporary healthcare professional,” Townsend said, and he later met with Glendale Unified educators and school psychologists who expressed a need for a full-time position, someone who had experience specifically dealing with suicide.
Solakyan told local school board members last week that he could feel the mental health issue was a personal and emotional concern for Glendale Unified employees.
“You could actually feel the pain in the staff and the spirits being broken,” said Solakyan, chief executive of Glendale-based Global Holdings Inc., which is primarily in the medical technology industry. “But I think with the uprising in the community…that spirit’s been lifted back up, and hopefully, this will be nothing more than a dark past soon.”
Rosemont Middle School Principal Cynthia Livingston said she was grateful that Solakyan was “taking charge” where there was a need, and “in an area some people don’t like to talk about,” she said.
“Our new [employee]… is trained in the area of assisting and connecting resources for students who are struggling with depression, anxiety — issues that are very relevant in part of a student’s ability to be successful in school,” Livingston said.
“We are absolutely beyond thrilled that we had somebody that saw a need in our community and stepped up and is providing a much valuable and desperately needed resource to assist us in helping our students,” she added.
The additional assistance is just as welcome at Crescenta Valley High School, where nearly 3,000 students have access to one school psychologist and five academic counselors.
“These six people have been trying to have time to meet the socio-emotional needs of the community,” said Crescenta Valley High School Principal Linda Junge. “So we’re really glad to have somebody on staff now to help us meet those needs.”
Junge also said the timing is right, and said it’s helpful to have an employee who will provide therapy to students and direct them to additional resources as the holidays and final exams neared.
She was also grateful that Solakyan is helping the school meet “a truly exceptional need” when it comes to youth in the foothills in recent years.
Teens’ personal struggles in the foothill community led Mark Yeager, chaplain for YMCA of the Foothills, to organize a “Life Walk” last month after he learned there had been nine teen suicides in the YMCA’s coverage area during the past two years.
Earlier this year, Glendale Unified seized upon a cost-effective opportunity to provide more academic counseling when school officials agreed to pay $57,000 to host more than 20 graduate student interns at all of Glendale’s middle schools and high schools.
The interns, who are studying social work at Cal State Los Angeles and USC, began in August and will work at the schools through April, putting in a total of 11,000 hours.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.