A local organization is working to increase awareness of what trauma can do to a child, and by extension, an entire community.  
Partners in Education was recently awarded a $1,000 grant from the Potts Family Foundation. The foundation is working with organizations across the state to help inform communities about the nature of trauma. PIE Executive Director Cynthia Pickens said because her organization focuses on education, the topic is a relevant one.
“The adverse childhood experiences are some of the things that cause young people to not be able to learn,” Pickens said. “They have so many other things on there minds that it deters them. If you didn’t get to sleep last night, it’s the last thing on your mind.”
The foundation screened the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope in 2017, in Ardmore and nine other Oklahoma cities last year as part of a statewide push for awareness. PIE, Mental Health Services and Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative participated. The film focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences, known as ACEs, and their longterm effects on a child’s life.
“We need to look and see if we can change some of these generational things and understand where they’re coming from,” Pickens said.
She said her goal is to help anyone who works with children, everyone from teachers to coaches to bus drivers, to understand what to look for.
“It effects all facets of life,” Pickens said. “What we find out is the first three years of a child’s life is when they’re learning the most.”
She said kids sleeping in class is frequently taken as a sign of laziness or disinterest, but can just as often be a red flag.
“Is it because they’re lazy, or is it because that’s the only safe place they have to take a nap?” Pickens said.
She said people don’t always fully understand the link between education and business, but trouble learning translates to issues at work as an adult.
“It’s easier to quit than to fail,” Pickens said. “If I quit, I didn’t fail. I think if we could just understand what they’re going through, not only in schools, but in the workforce, we could bridge some of those gaps.”
Pickens, who has a master’s degree in counseling, recently attended a training event with the organization Bridges out of Poverty, which addresses the same topics. She said she doesn’t know exactly what the grant money will be used for yet, but it will be used to increase awareness and make the community more trauma-informed.
“I think if we as a community have enough resources and enough people who care, we can make a huge change,” Pickens said.