a community engagement initiative of Waverly Community Unit District #6
“I’ve always enjoyed school,” Carrie Prola says. “Probably more of the social aspect when you’re younger. It’s always been a passion of mine to help others.” As a native of Springfield, Carrie witnessed the need for better social and emotional learning in a larger district as a student. She’s always been in tune with the delicate landscape of student needs, and she understands the crucial role of Behavioral Intervention in communities of this size.
“You’re meeting students at a social and emotional level in counseling,” she explains. “It’s needed more now. Parents used to have more time to impart that social and emotional learning. With both parents working on average, there’s not enough time and energy going to the social and emotional needs of children.” Carrie isn’t only somebody who’s learned about the specific struggles of an at-risk community; she lived it as a single mom for several years. She regards this experience as upping her ability to help empathize more effectively with students and their families.
Unfortunately, Carrie’s empathy unavoidably leads to exhaustion. It’s inevitable that someone in her role would encounter the ugly stuff. “I can’t sit here and say it doesn’t wear on you at times,” she says, “but I feel like I’ve always been a positive person and whatever you put out in the world you get back.” Her ability to push past the rough times is due to interventions she’s conducted on her own behavior. “I think I’ve learned over the years my breaking points and my boundaries, my overall look on life,” she explains. “Life is short, so I try not to take things too...I don’t want to say I don’t take things seriously.” She clarifies, “I feel like I’m able to put things in perspective in terms of how much time and energy is needed.”
Her time and energy are currently funneled into her “whole-kid” approach to social and emotional wellness. The blueprint includes keeping kids hydrated and well-fed with adequately proportioned nutritious meals. She’s also trying to shore up interaction between kids, especially after the effects of pandemic isolation. “It’s about taking care of the whole child,” she says.
Social and emotional learning isn’t anything new, she says; it’s that now we make time for it. “Kids aren’t going to learn if they’re not emotionally regulated and their needs aren’t being met,” Carrie says. The student population benefits from Carrie’s interventions because they encourage a sounder body and mind and foster future role models in students who thrive after their behavioral challenges are addressed. One motto has brought her this far and will carry her leaps and bounds into the future: Stay focused on reality and set goals accordingly.