In 2006, Dr. Johnson had been driving past Scholars’ Academy, which was a block from his center, every day for nearly ten years on his way to work. That day the gnawing feeling inside him came to realization: he and the staff of the Post Traumatic Stress Center had been working with traumatized children and adults, often years after their traumas had occurred. Though the treatments offered at the center were expert and often successful, they were expensive and took a great deal of effort.
As he drove by the school, he wondered how many of those students were experiencing stressful experiences that had yet to be identified. It was December, so he decided to approach the school with a giant Christmas wreath as a neighborly gesture. The principal, Judith Puglisi, was dumbfounded but delighted to have such a nice wreath for the school, and most certainly waited for some request from Dr. Johnson, which did not come. Instead, the two began a dialogue about the nature of the school’s environment and mission, and the emotional needs of the students.
Slowly, members of the PTSC staff began to visit the school and talk with the students. Dr. Johnson ran a truancy group. Nisha Sajnani and Mira Rozenberg assisted in the 9th grade Humanities class with a teacher named Ann Brillante. Kim Jewers-Dailley hung out in the halls and helped de-escalate kids who blew out of classrooms, becoming known as “Miss Kim,” the forerunner of Miss Kendra. Dr. Johnson spent a semester sitting once a week in Ms. Blatteau’s 9th grade History class to observe and learn. They ran summer programs.
Together, the teaching and administrative staff of Scholars, and the clinicians at the Post Traumatic Stress Center, learned how each of their skills could fit together to address the overwhelming stresses the students were experiencing. When Ms. Puglisi moved to Metropolitan Business Academy, ALIVE followed. Soon the United Way heard of the work, and sponsored the first expansion of ALIVE into elementary schools. And the rest is history!