By Tippi Rasp Staff Writer

Outside social service agencies are continuing to provide Enid Public Schools with the personnel to provide supplemental counseling to help meet the needs of its growing population of students.

Enid Public Schools Board of Education members approved a contract recently with Youth and Family Services to offer school-based counseling services during the 2005-06 school year. Justin Simmons, executive director of Youth and Family Services, said services offered by YFS counselors at the schools compliment the current educational process taking place in the classroom.

"Enid's educators are doing a great job of making sure that students with educational barriers have access to programs that help them overcome learning obstacles," Simmons said. "The schools have very skilled guidance counselors in place to help students with physical or learning disabilities do their best in school. Counselors from Youth and Family Services are in the school system to help students with emotional challenges learn to cope with mental health issues so that they too can do their best in school."

David McCune, special education director for Enid Public Schools, said teachers place a lot of emphasis on equipping students with the skills necessary for academic success. Having counselors available through YSF ensures every child's educational needs are met.

Many students have emotional and behavioral challenges that can interfere with their ability to concentrate and learn, Simmons said. Most of the students YSF counselors work with also need help learning to communicate in a healthy way with peers, teachers and family members.

"Our counselors work with these children to teach them skills that boost their confidence and often increases their motivation to learn," Simmons said. "In many instances, the counseling program has been effective in teaching students that they do have the ability to obtain educational success."

Youth and Family Services currently staffs Adams, Garfield and Monroe schools and Longfellow Junior High School with mental health counselors. Any parent or teacher who is interested in having school-based counseling services offered at other schools can contact Marie Gundlach, school-based services coordinator for Youth and Family Services, at 233-7220.

Youth and Family Services of North Central Oklahoma, founded in 1974, is a nonprofit agency that provides counseling and other family-centered services to children, youth and families. ?The agency primarily serves Garfield, Grant and Major counties, and currently operates the only emergency youth shelter in northwest Oklahoma.

Enid Public Schools also is served by staff from the Garfield County Health Department to provide psychological and education evaluation services for students. Enid Counseling and Diagnostic Center and private counselors are under contract with the district as well.

Enid Public Schools also employs two social workers. DHS pays the majority of the most recently hired social worker's salary and the United Way picks up a smaller portion through a venture grant.

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