Margaret’s Place: Powered by Peer Leaders

YWCA Greater Cincinnati had the opportunity during the 2017-2018 school year to work with the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation to implement a program called Margaret’s Place for the first time in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Margaret’s Place is a dedicated safe room in schools where students who have been impacted by violence and trauma can go to talk or hang out in a comfortable environment that feels safe to them; A place where respect and confidentiality are the rule. The program falls in line with YWCA’s mission in becoming a trauma informed agency as the program serves students 7th-9th grade by providing them with free preventative and intervention services.

A key piece of Margaret’s Place is Peer Leadership. Peer Leaders are youth ambassadors for Margaret’s Place and are trained in public speaking, conflict mediation, violence and abuse prevention and play an active role in educating their peers. Giovanni Wright (pictured left) was a senior at Riverview East Academy when he became a peer leader.  Gio grew up in a single household in OTR as the second oldest of 8 siblings. Gio states that he took on a lot of responsibility at an early age and felt like he had to raise his younger siblings and protect them so his mother could work and support his family.  Gio’s father was away in Jail. Gio reports that he dealt with homelessness and abuse in his household.  Because of the many experiences Gio had, he wanted to help others at his school who experience similar traumas.  He felt that by being a peer leader he could do just that. Gio felt alone for the majority of his life and wanted to work towards making others feel that they aren’t alone by sharing his story. Gio wanted to make sure his peers had someone trusting to lean on and he became that support.  Gio truly made a huge impact on his peers during his last year at Riverview and was able to travel to New York City to share his story alongside Joe Torre at the annual Safe at Home Golf Outing.

Gio graduated from high school and will begin his studies in Social Work/ Psychology at UC this fall. He plans to continue to build on his strength- helping people.


Strong Relationships, High Expectations and Wrap-Around Support: Addressing Student Needs Through Restorative Practices

The adverse experiences children have outside of school are not left behind when students arrive at the school door. Kids bring toxic life experiences with them into the classroom — where they may show up as disruptive behavior, depression, anger, aggression, fear and other obstacles to academic success.

Increasingly, educators are recognizing that to help their students succeed, they must first address the intensive emotional needs of children affected by poverty, abuse, neglect, neighborhood violence, drugs and other traumatic experiences.

Members of Joining Forces for Children are working individually and collectively to develop innovative methods for reducing the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences.

Restorative Practices

The approach adopted by Northwest Local School District (NWLSD) focuses on building strong relationships, setting high expectations and providing wrap-around support.

“Our first step was recognizing that in order to help kids be ready for school and be more academically focused, we needed to develop the relationship with kids and families,” says Darrell Yater, Assistant Superintendent.

The district chose a framework known as “restorative practices,” which Mr. Yater explains is based on “the hypothesis that people are happier, more productive and more willing to make positive change when people in positions of authority do things with them, not to them or for them.”

To begin the process, NWLSD staff had training in the tenets of restorative practices, and they have had follow-up training every six months. Ongoing training gives staff across all disciplines a common language, as well as tools for building stronger relationships with students and their families. Each school has developed its own way of applying restorative practices within its building, but all have focused on strong, supportive relationships.

“We truly believe that whether it be an instructional issue, a behavioral issue, a social/emotional issue — none of these issues will ever be addressed unless there is a strong supportive relationship and a sense of community that people feel part of,” Mr. Yater says.

Several years after introducing restorative practices, the school district’s Culture and Climate Survey showed improved scores for people feeling listened to and welcomed. The district also is tracking discipline data, hoping to see improvements over time.

Building on a Strong Foundation

Implementing restorative practices was the beginning, not the end, of the school district’s efforts to build wrap-around services to support children and families. “Once you start developing the relationships,” Mr. Yater says, “you learn more about kids and families, and then you start to learn what gaps you have. . . . We keep building more and more supports.”

NWLSD has established partnerships to expand its ability to address children’s needs. For example, through a partnership with the Children’s Home, district schools now have access to professionals who provide individual therapy and case management services. Children’s Home also provides a doctor once a week, improving families’ access to medical care.

Participating in Joining Forces for Children has allowed the Northwest Local School District to learn from and collaborate with other organizations focused on strategies to ameliorate the impact of adverse childhood experiences. Mr. Yater now sees restorative practices as a foundation for other trauma informed work.

“Joining Forces for Children has allowed us to be part of the conversation,” Mr. Yater says, and has helped us “figure out which solution out there is best for us that may not be one we would have thought of on our own.”

By Bea Katz and Kaitlyn Gronauer

Virtual Tour of Avondale for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Staff

An educational research team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has developed, implemented, and evaluated a virtual tour of a local impoverished neighborhood (Avondale). The virtual tour utilizes immersive 360 videos, allowing viewers to move freely within the virtual environment, and is organized in a phone/tablet application (app). This educational experience highlights Avondale’s community resources and neighborhood-related barriers to healthy outcomes by intertwining 360 videos of 8 neighborhood sites and interviews with community members (about access to food, transportation, exercise, and housing). Curriculum implementation began in September with first-year residents on their advocacy rotation. Initial results demonstrate non-inferiority to the previous in-person experience in improving residents’ self-assessed ability to provide tailored anticipatory guidance. Residents also reported effective immersion in the virtual environment.


The app in development: Once completed, users can look at a map of tour locations (left image), click on a location for more information (middle image), then take a virtual, 360-degree tour of the location of their choice (images on the right). To see a preview of the 360 tour, watch the video below.


The virtual tour approach offers advantages (compared to the previous in-person experience), including standardized access to more neighborhood locations, inclusion of parents’ voice, and ease of expansion without causing undue burden on community members. Next steps include scaling the virtual tour to providers across the educational continuum to enhance awareness of the daily experiences of their patients living in poverty. Improving clinicians’ understanding of the context in which patients live can ensure provision of more meaningful advice, ultimately improving outcomes.

Experience a virtual tour in the making. Enjoy the expanded view as you can use your Internet browser or smartphone move the screen around 360 degrees as the video plays. You can watch the video in 360° using Google Chrome or Firefox internet browsers on a computer, or through the YouTube app on your smartphone or tablet. As you watch, please move the screen in all directions to appreciate the full field of view.

(Educational research team members: Margot Lazow, MD, Francis J. Real, MD, MEd, Melissa Klein, MD, MEd, Nicholas Ollberding, PhD, David Davis, MFA, Bradley Cruse, MFA)