HomePine Bluff newsUAMS receives major grant for enhancing school safety in Pine Bluff

UAMS receives major grant for enhancing school safety in Pine Bluff

Pine Bluff, Arkansas – The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Institute for Digital Health & Innovation has been granted a significant boost by the U.S. Department of Justice to strengthen safety in and around Pine Bluff schools. This three-year, $1 million grant aims to reduce violent crime through the School Telemedicine in Arkansas for Lessons in Trauma-informed Education (STARLITE) program. Launched in 2021, STARLITE is dedicated to improving security across Arkansas schools.

Also read: Pine Bluff community stands up against youth violence

Stanley Ellis, Ed.D., the principal investigator for STARLITE and director of education at the institute, expressed gratitude for the Department of Justice’s support. He emphasized the importance of this initiative for the Pine Bluff community, a place rich in history, where the youth play a crucial role in continuing its storied legacy.

Pine Bluff joins the STARLITE program following its pilot implementation in Jasper, Lamar, and Magazine. The program focuses on equipping school officials to efficiently handle mental health crises and coordinate with law enforcement and school personnel in managing threats. STARLITE empowers faculty, students, and parents with the necessary tools to recognize, respond to, and prevent acts of violence effectively.

Moreover, the grant will facilitate increased family involvement, improve communication between families and schools, and help in developing a comprehensive safety plan for the schools, as outlined by Ellis.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of the STARLITE program. The Seed Digging Wellness Center in Harrison and the Hurricane Hype Center at New St. Hurricane Baptist Church in Pine Bluff are key partners. These institutions bring specialized expertise to the program. The Seed Digging Wellness Center is known for its counseling techniques that empower children to overcome emotional or behavioral challenges and boost their self-confidence. Meanwhile, the Hurricane Hype Center offers a nurturing space for young people, providing a range of activities including recreational, educational, social, spiritual, health, and wellness opportunities. It also includes a summer program, youth basketball leagues, after-school programs, and coding clubs, all aimed at fostering positive development.

Ellis highlighted the importance of community involvement in this endeavor, stressing the need to work with organizations native to Pine Bluff and trusted by its residents. This collaborative approach is seen as vital to effectively support and protect the youth of the community.

The STARLITE program, backed by the significant grant from the Department of Justice, is a significant step towards enhancing the safety and well-being of students in Pine Bluff. It represents a comprehensive effort to address the challenges of violence and mental health in schools, while also nurturing the potential of the young generation to contribute positively to their community.

Nathan Kim

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