Supporting You Supporting Students: Tools for the Challenging Times

Supporting You Supporting Students: Tools for the Challenging Times
Part 2 of 4
Thursday, April 16th | 1pm - 3pm


"Promoting Academic Success for Every Student – Mental Health Advocacy, Resources and Professional Development"
Loretta Whitson, Ed.D.- California Association of School Counselors, Inc.

School counseling is an evidence-based practice that supports all students in grades PreK-12. It is based on the science of child development and focuses on improving all aspects of the educational system to support the “whole child”. Experts advise that there is at least one school counselor for every 250 students, yet the ratios in California far exceed recommendation by nearly threefold. The trauma brought on by Covid-19 and the extended school closures has been met by the California Association for School Counselors Inc. (CASC) aggressively through a historical collaborative state and national effort. The goal is to ensure comprehensive counseling services are being provide and distant counseling services are equitable. This presentation will outline a number of legislative initiatives, new resources and professional development available to meet the growing mental health needs of our youth and their families, as well as provisions for increasing school-based mental health services.

Loretta Whitson, Ed.D is the Executive Director for the California Association of School Counselors and has devoted her life’s work to advancing the school counseling profession in California.  She works closely with state leaders, legislators and journalists, clarifying complex educational issues and champions policies and practices to support school counselors in California.  For over twenty years Dr. Whitson was Director of Student Support Services in Monrovia USD where she oversaw school counseling, as well as several district-level operations. Between 2015-2017 Dr. Whitson served as Chair of the Educational Counseling Program for the University of La Verne and was a visiting professor for 10 years at California State University Northridge.

"Collaborative Partnerships to Support Staff and Students Amid a Pandemic"
Monica Nepomuceno, MSW- California Department of Education

The health and safety of all California's K-12 staff and students is a top priority for the California Department of Education. This presentation will describe CDE's efforts in supporting our constituents to maintain optimum mental health and access to resources and services during school closures.

Monica Nepomuceno, MSW is an Education Programs Consultant at the California Department of Education (CDE). In this capacity, Monica oversees the Mental Health Services Program, co-chairs the Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup (SMHPW), is the Project Cal-Well Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Coordinator and a YMHFA Instructor, and represents the voice of K-12 students on several committees, including the California Behavioral Health Planning Council (CBHPC) and the California Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY). Monica is passionate about creating a better public understanding of the mental health needs of California K-12 students. This includes helping all school staff, parents, and community members increase their knowledge and awareness of student mental health. She is highly committed to helping schools and districts build capacity to support student-centered mental health programs, which include the identification of students in need, improving school climate, providing direct services, staff training, student training, opportunities for youth engagement and a role for peer support. She understands firsthand the effects that an undiagnosed and untreated mental health issue can have on a person’s life. Her lived experience has helped her advocate for students’ diverse needs and the ability for youth-serving adults to intervene timely, respectful, and culturally appropriate manner. Monica stresses the importance of recognizing symptoms early on and before they interfere with daily functioning or become debilitating. Monica is most proud of her ability to build relationships with local, state, and national partners to increase awareness of and supports for student mental health. Her role at the CDE helps foster connections and leverage resources to engage non-traditional partners with schools and students.

"Psychological First Aid: Listen Protect Connect- Model and Teach"
Vivien Villaverde, MS SW, PPSC, LCSW- University of Southern California Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
and Pamela Vona, MPH, MA- USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

This training was specifically designed as a five-step crisis response strategy based on communication skills that educators and school staff use every day. Although initially introduced in response to targeted school violence, such as school shootings and other acts of violence on a school campus, the goals of Psychological First Aid for Schools – Listen Protect Connect/Model and Teach have relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seriously disrupted the daily lives over children and adults all over the world. The closure of schools and businesses adds to the health risks faced by all which contribute to the stresses that students and adults face under orders of physical distancing, stay at home directives or quarantine conditions. Given the levels of internet and web connectivity for students, being at home doesn’t have to mean being cut off from teachers, school support staff, classmates and friends.

Vivien Villaverde, MS SW, PPSC, LCSW is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Field Education Department of the University of Southern California School of Social Work. She graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work with a Master of Science Degree in Social Work. She formerly worked as a Psychiatric Social Worker within the Los Angeles Unified School District specializing in collaborative program partnerships (Los Angeles County agencies such as the Department of Probation, Department of Mental Health and the Department of Children and Family Services) serving students in the foster care and the delinquency where she gained significant subject matter experience in coordinated collaboration and capacity building. Prof. Villaverde is the Teaching Institution (TI) Coordinator responsible for developing large scale community partnerships. As the Coordinator, she assists in improving and elevating the quality of the MSW training program and supports community capacity building projects and endeavors. In addition, she is a Trauma-Informed School Support Specialist for the Treatment Services and Adaptation Center for Resiliency, Hope and Wellness in Schools (TSA). TSA is a SAHMSA funded center supporting schools’ trauma-informed strategic transformation and program development to provide evidence-based prevention and early intervention services. She provides consultation and supports for Trauma-Responsive School Transformation and capacity building training in Trauma-Informed Skills for Educators (TISE), Psychological First Aid (PFA), Services to Students Exposed to Trauma (SSET), Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS), Core Concepts of Child and Adolescent Trauma, Disaster Response, Planning and Management, Crisis Response and Management, Motivational Interviewing, Problem Solving Therapy and others. She collaborates and trains nationally and internationally with schools, districts, and other organizations (California Department of Education; NorthWest MHTTC/University of Washington; Philippines Department of Education/Consuelo Foundation-NGO [Philippines]; School Mental Health Resources and Research Center [S. Korea], and many more).

Pamela Vona, MPH, MA is the Co-Director of the Center for Safe and Resilient Schools and Workplaces. She is also the Center Manager and a Research Associate at the Treatment and Services Adaptation Center for Resilience, Hope, and Wellness in Schools. Ms. Vona’s interests include understanding how to support public and private organizations as they transition into trauma-informed systems of care. Ms. Vona served as a lead developer of the Trauma Responsive School Implementation Assessment—an online assessment designed to help schools improve their trauma- responsiveness.  She is also the lead developer of the Trauma Informed Skills for Educators (TISE) a curriculum designed to enhance educators’ trauma knowledge and skills. Ms. Vona serves on the School Committee Workgroup for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and previously was a member of the NCTSN Policy Task Force.

Who Should Attend

School Counselors, School Psychologists, School Social Workers, K-12 Teachers, Site/District Administrators, School Nurses, School-Based LMFTs, LPCCs, LCSWs, Campus Health/Wellness Center Staff, University & Community College Leadership & Counselors



Wellness Together School Mental Health welcomes a wide variety of presenters from diverse backgrounds. The views and opinions expressed by these individuals and organizations do not necessarily represent those of Wellness Together School Mental Health or the California Department of Education. Presentations and presenters are all subject to change at any time for any reason.  

Reasonable Accommodation Will Be Provided For Any Individual with a Disability.

Pursuant to state and federal statutes, individuals with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation to attend or participate in the Supporting You Supporting Students Webinar Series. Requests for Sign Language Interpreters should be directed to the Department’s Office of Equal Opportunity no later than three business days prior to the scheduled event. 

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Telephone: (916) 445-9174

Fax: (916) 324-9818