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Palm Coast Saturday, May 21, 2022 1 month ago

Improve access to mental health resources, School Board candidate Courtney VandeBunte writes

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According to the National Institute for Mental Health, an estimated 49.5% of adolescents have a mental health disorder.
by: Guest Writer

Send letters to [email protected]. Candidates and elected officials are encouraged to submit letters.

Courtney VandeBunte

Dear Editor:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and mental health concerns among adolescents are at an all-time high, exacerbated by social media, and the never-ending and concerning news headlines that contribute to our children’s growing anxiety.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, an estimated 49.5% of adolescents have a mental health disorder, which could be anything from ADD to depression. Considering the rising connectedness between substance abuse and mental health diagnoses, it is dire that we shift our focus to addressing resource availability and accessibility within Flagler Schools to ensure that all students have equal access to what they need to be happy and successful. Too many lives are cut short by violence, substance abuse and suicide, making it imperative that we support the right programs that will foster the growth and connectedness of our families within Flagler Schools.

As most know, there is a direct correlation between family involvement and a student’s overall success. I fully support all parents and families in having a prominent role in supporting their children’s education within our schools, but we need to offer our families more flexibility to meet all their diverse needs. For example, it can be challenging for single-family households to attend the countless but important meetings, conferences and ceremonies, and, as a School Board, we should be mindful and supportive of that. Our No. 1 priority must be the overall success and happiness of our children, and we cannot do that without staying focused and working closely with our families.

There’s a lot of noise in the media around education and what’s important. We, the community — including parents, children, teachers and staff — know the hardships our children are experiencing, day-to-day. This is what the School Board needs to focus on. Happy and healthy kids and happy and supportive families lead to happy and safe communities, which is what I strive for, not only for my own three children, but for every child here in Flagler County.

Courtney VandeBunte

Palm Coast

Editor's Note: VandeBunte is a candidate for Flagler County School Board, District 2. To explain her background and reason for running, she wrote: "I grew up here in Flagler County, was educated within Flagler’s public schools, and taught for many years in some of those same schools as a highly effective educator. My children were also born here, which has allowed me the opportunity to step away to focus on being a mom while also providing educational consulting services for districts across the nation. My children are all school-aged now, so when making a decision on returning to work, I realized I could have a bigger impact on more families, children, teachers, and staff by running for School Board vs. returning to the classroom. As a previous educator and parent, I have first-hand experience and knowledge about the necessary priorities our community must focus on."

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