Ask anyone who’s been in school, and they’ll identify some point at which they just didn’t want to go to school. Whether it’s a grade-schooler longing for a snow day or a high schooler wishing for one more day to polish that paper, we’ve all had those moments when staying home sounds great. For most of us, that moment passes, because we enjoy school, on some level, if only for the camaraderie. For others of us, the moment stays with us, and we need some extra help to get back on track. That’s where Heidi Jacobus comes in.
Jacobus, in her 19th year with PORTA, supervises the Student Assistance Program (SAP), a program for 3rd-12th graders finding themselves having difficulties with academics, attendance, behavior, or even extended illness.
As it is now structured, the Student Assistance Program consists of a coordinated team of teachers, led by Jacobus, who meet to develop plans to help struggling students overcome issues interfering with their success in school.
“Here at PORTA, teachers often take initiative to assist students even before SAP convenes,” explained Jacobus. “We’re privileged to have a good system of teachers already in place, so a lot gets done behind the scenes which may solve a problem before it’s referred to SAP. Teachers often request a student be assigned to their advisory, or come in for extra assistance during mutual study hall/prep period if that student seems to be having problems with only one class. When students are struggling across their classes or have an issue that’s affecting them overall is usually when SAP steps in.”
Students can be referred to SAP by teachers, parents/guardians, or even by themselves in a self-referral. Once referred, students can find a number of avenues of support, including referral to outside social service agencies, partnering with a peer mentor, specific teacher support, or other intervention that is appropriate for that student’s needs.
“The peer mentoring program at PORTA is outstanding,” Jacobus stated. High school students volunteer to give up at least two days of their study hall period to mentor students who may need anything from academic help, to social skills assistance, to organizational strategies. Central students assist with things such as checking planners to make sure homework is going home accurately or offering study assistance. “It’s not unusual to see an upper grade student, a 6th grader, for instance, helping out a 3rd grader who needs extra support.”
Jacobus suggests that parents and guardians check in with their child’s teacher(s) if they see a problem such as grades falling off, attendance becoming erratic, or behavior changing noticeably. “Parent/Teacher conferences are a great time for a quick check up, and parents and guardians are always able to contact a teacher.” Email information for teachers is on the PORTA website at porta202.org.
“Students who are struggling in school don’t find school to be much fun,” observed Jacobus.
“SAP is a program we have in place to help students find success when it’s eluding them.” She invites parents/guardians or students to contact her to learn more about the SAP program or to initiate a referral.