Finding the Best Strategies to Help At-Risk Teens
As part of our series “Breaking the Cycle: Youth and Teen Bullying and Abuse,” Steve Adubato goes on-location to The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey to talk with JJ Ferrito, Psy.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, about what helps at-risk students between the ages of 16 and 19.
"Hi, Steve Adubato. More importantly, we're at the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. We just finished a very compelling, important conversation called Breaking the Cycle of Teen Abuse and Bullying. And we're joined by one of our panelists who contributed so much, he is Doctor J. J. Ferrito, a licensed clinical psychologist, he works a program, or leads a program at Perth Amboy High School for at-risk students, ages 16 to 19. Good to see you J. J. Thanks for having me. The most significant takeaway for you in that conversation, particularly as it relates to the role of schools to combat and deal with the challenge of teen abuse and bullying? Well I think what stood out most to me, honestly, was actually something that we were kind of just blossoming into as the conversation was coming to a close, which is the responsibility that schools have. Sure. And to me, what I have found in my work consulting with schools and working in schools is that educators have a tremendous capacity to promote social-emotional skills in students in a meaningful way when given an appropriate amount of support and an appropriate opportunity to do something. What does it look like? I think... Promoting this? I mean a lot of it comes down to making time for staff to be with one another, to build a community among the staff so that the culture can permeate throughout the building. You know, oftentimes in our schools now, there's such a pressure to perform, and there are so many different programs running in different directions, that things become disorganized. And there's a lack of overarching lens, and kind of togetherness, to allow things to be coherent, even for the students, to get a consistent message. Is that a lot to expect from teachers, educators, and administrators who have so many other pressures? I think it is. But I think similar... and coming back to our discussion, right? It's about how we prioritize. And the type of leaders that we have in our buildings. So for example, in our program in Perth Amboy, our principal is Mrs. Yolanda Gomez, and she is a dynamic, inspiring, compassionate, loving woman. What's her message about teen bullying and abuse? Her message is that we need to bring these kids in close to show them what it's like to experience a loving relationship, so that that's what they seek out in the future. And that's what she does. How difficult is it, or not, to get teens to talk openly about abuse, bullying, whether it be face-to-face, online, et cetera, et cetera? It can be tremendously difficult for them to..."