Trinity County trauma-sensitive alternative school wins CCBE Apple for Excellence Award
Trinity County in Northern California is so rural that it doesn’t even have a stop light. But what it does have is an award-winning, comprehensive alternative school serving at-promise K-12 students who need a second chance to succeed.

Operated by the Trinity County Office of Education, the R.I.S.E. Academy is this year’s winner of the CCBE Apple for Excellence Award. The award recognizes outstanding programs administered by county offices of education reflecting the depth and breadth of a county education program necessary to address students’ changing needs. The award is given to the top county office of education program that is a winner of the CSBA Golden Bell Award.

The R.I.S.E. Academy was created two years ago in response to several student crisis situations in Trinity county. The academy is the result of a collaborative process among school districts in the county and the Trinity COE to address the county’s lack of an alternative setting to assist students who were struggling and needed smaller class sizes along with wraparound support services. As schools worked to try to provide resources and build support systems to help with these situations, it became clear that a trauma-sensitive school was needed to support the most affected students.

R.I.S.E. Academy consists of two classrooms and one office serving up to 24 of Trinity County’s most emotionally challenged students who have not experienced success in the traditional school environment. Students come to the academy with a wide array of social and emotional needs. R.I.S.E. provides a personalized, holistic and restorative educational approach. Each student has a personal educational plan tailored to meet their specific academic and social-emotional needs. The academy emphasizes strong character building by having students participate in various community service activities, such as working with the homeless and building community gardens.

Trinity County Deputy Superintendent Dr. Fabio Robles describes how the R.I.S.E Academy changes students’ lives: “Our staff builds positive relationships with each student and their caregivers. As a result, students learn how to forge strong, long-lasting relationships with peers and adults while overcoming adversity so that they can succeed. Learning the importance of building and restoring relationships is foundational to our program and has made the most difference in the success of our students.”

Another critical aspect of R.I.S.E. Academy is the support it provides to each student’s family. Each semester, caregivers participate in a six-week parenting support workshop that uses Love and Logic curriculum. These workshops, held in the evenings once a week for two hours, are critical to the wraparound support goals of the program.

Financial support for R.I.S.E. comes from school districts whose students attend the academy. Despite the fact these districts have faced their own financial hardships, their boards support the program because of the significant positive impact it has had on students. The districts and county office continue to find new ways to work together as well. R.I.S.E. Academy staff will soon provide training to school district staff in ways to incorporate trauma-sensitive approaches into their schools.