New support program connects SM North students to community resources

Dental technician Vin Truong takes X-rays of a student during the dental clinic this week at SM North.
Dental technician Vin Truong takes X-rays of a student during the dental clinic this week at SM North.

Sometimes students come to school with needs that have to be addressed to make them successful, but the resource isn’t always in the school building.

At SM North this year, a new program helps the students connect with the help that might be available in the community. Miranda Green is the face students at SM North see everyday at the school representing Communities In Schools (CIS), now in its second year in the Shawnee Mission district, but its first year at SM North.

One of the needs that Green and CIS took on already this school year was a dental clinic that brought free dental care to the school. Dentists and technicians from the Health Partnership Clinic this week did X-rays, fillings and some extractions on students who came down to the temporary clinic during the school day.

The dental clinic will see more than 100 students when all of the sessions are complete. Students who had work done Monday will come back for cleanings. Green still had permission slips for dental work during in this week.

CIS supports “students who need things that are outside of school,” says SM North Associate Principal Annette Gonzales. “(The goal) is to minimize any kids falling through the cracks,” Gonzales says. “Sometimes they just need an advocate or mentor.”

Green, who worked in foster care before joining CIS, sees 10 to 15 students per day and often talks with them about attendance and grades. “I look for any barrier to them doing well in school,” she says. The needs can range from transportation to financial to health. Some students are working and some have to help with the family. Green’s role is to connect them to resources that can make a difference.

Another initiative this year will be to show students options for life after high school, including apprenticeships and trades, to let them know what is possible for them and how they will need to prepare.

The mission statement for CIS is “Surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.” CIS data shows that 99 percent of students receiving individualized services stayed in school and 95 percent were promoted to the next grade level.

The CIS program at SM North is funded through a grant through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.