ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University (ETSU) announced a new partnership with Unicoi County Schools (UCS) on Monday, saying that a new approach to childhood adversities may improve education outcomes.

According to a press release from ETSU, the Resilient Schools Project is focused at the administrative level and will help school staff identify potential tools to help children who experienced trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, poverty or the death of a parent.

“Children face challenging life events, and this can affect their ability to learn and thrive,” said Dr. Ginger Christian, an assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) in the Clemmer College. “Educators are a powerful influence in students’ lives and resilient schools understand and connect evidence-based practices to building strong brains.”

In previous studies released by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Unicoi County ranked 70th out of 95 counties in terms of childhood wellbeing. That rank placed it as the lowest performer in News Channel 11’s TN coverage area.

In a profile compiled by the TCCY, Unicoi County ranked below the state average in graduation, reading proficiency and math proficiency. That data does not separate city and county systems, however.

In an effort to improve the performance of students that have faced trauma, ETSU said professionals with the ELPA program and Strong BRAIN Institute (SBI) will work with UCS schools to teach students how to cope with and respond to stressful life events.

“The project champions the Unicoi County School System’s vision to invest in students and build our future,” said John English, director of UCS. “We are excited about the focus on social emotional learning and research-based programs that align with our district goals.”

A large part of the program is behavioral, the release said, since early intervention and action can prevent anger, fear and agitation seen in some children who endure ACEs.