Cardinal Mental Health Team
Cardinal Mental Health Team

The Mental Health Team at Cardinal Community School District (CCSD) works to eliminate barriers that keep students from succeeding at school or in society. “We believe that if kids aren’t healthy mentally, then it’s going to be tough to be at a high level academically. We want our students to know it’s OK to talk to us,” said Superintendent Joel Pedersen. The Mental Health Team ensures that all students have access to a Professional School Counselor or Social Worker and a fully licensed school therapist.

To further support their Mental Health Team’s efforts, CCSD applied for a Legacy Youth Alliance grant. The grant provides funding to purchase items that support basic human needs, promote student health, and support individuals in their sessions such as toys, books, hygiene items, rewards, and emotional support items. Items are being used in counseling settings and special education rooms that help students develop new coping skills and learn self-care.

Aimee Sivak, At-Risk Coordinator for the district, said, “Each student has unique needs, and we strive to meet each and every student where they’re at-whether that be help with separation, anxiety, or social skills.” The program is a collaborative effort to spread the news of resources available to district families and eliminate the stigma of reaching out for mental health support. The team provides whole group guidance lessons, small social support groups, counseling referrals, and 1:1 sessions.

When an individual has support, the team believes they can achieve big goals. The district is seeing that belief come to fruition through the Iowa Department of Education data regarding graduation and dropout rates for the 2019-2020 school year. 97% of Cardinal Seniors graduated last year; over 5% more than the state average of 91.8%.

The Mental Health Team Consists of Abbey Shelman (Elementary Guidance Counselor), Michelle Edwards (Middle/High School Guidance Counselor), Aimee Sivak (At-Risk Coordinator), Kathy Utterback (Great Prairie Area Education Agency Therapist), and Tammy Loerzel (River Hills Community Health Center Therapist).