Using ESSER to Improve Student and Staff Wellbeing

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health and the resources available to support it. The COVID-19 pandemic placed a significant toll on the mental health and wellbeing of students, teachers and educational leaders that states and districts continue to address through targeted approaches. In Illinois, state leaders are using COVID relief funding to support student and staff wellbeing through the Resilience Education to Advance Community Healing (REACH) statewide initiative.

The REACH initiative, led by the Center for Childhood Resilience at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, trains educators, school-based mental health professionals and community members to build school-level capacity to implement and hone trauma-responsive policies and practices. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, both students and staff at Broadmeadow Elementary School in Rantoul, Illinois, faced significant social and emotional challenges and staff needed the tools and resources to implement a cohesive action plan to address the impact of the pandemic.

With support from the state’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) set-aside fund, Illinois collectively invested over $121.6 million to expand the REACH initiative, launch seven regional social-emotional learning hubs and provide community partnership grants to meet students’ social, emotional, behavioral and mental health needs. Thanks to the REACH initiative, Broadmeadow Elementary School Principal Amy Blomberg was able to focus the school’s efforts on student and educator wellbeing and professional development on trauma prevention.

At CCSSO’s 2023 Legislative Conference in March, Illinois education leaders and community health partners shared the impact of the REACH initiative and illustrated how the state is using ESSER relief funding to support student and staff wellbeing.

“We knew we had a problem, but we really didn’t have the tools or the language to quantify the problem and REACH really gave us those tools. They provided us with the learning resources, a hub with everything all in one place.” – Amy Blomberg, Principal, Broadmeadow Elementary School 

“So now we have seven regional hubs where teachers can go and learn about trauma-informed care, the practices recognizing when students are in trauma and how to support them, and also being mindful of their own mental health needs. And so it's changing the way we do business in Illinois.” – Tony Sanders, Illinois State Superintendent of Education


Watch the full video recording here, and read more about Illinois’ REACH initiative in CCSSO’s Road to Recovery report, How States are Using ESSER Funds to Support Student and Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Featured Resources from the Illinois State Board of Education

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