YUMA, AZ - The Yuma Union High School District has dealt with its share of tragedies over the years. Try as they might, no one can't protect students from the harsh realities of life until they're 18 years old. But YUHSD has a crisis counseling program to help students, teachers and parents cope when bad things happen.
Allen Hill has been with the YUHSD Crisis Counseling Program since its inception.
"It is a group of people that have been put together to address situations that come about throughout the course of the year that would interfere with the student's ability to function at the school academically and stuff ... It's like an abnormal event within the school year," explains Hill.
The events requiring intervention have varied over the years, from students killed in car accidents, to the sudden death of a first grader in a school bathroom. And then, there's the event that gave the crisis counseling program its start: 9/11. After the terrorist attack on New York City's twin towers, Hill says MCAS Yuma became a target.
"We started talking as counselors, are we prepared to handle it if something like this goes down here in the county? And then we wound up looking at that saying no, we're not really ready, so we formed this team which comprises police, fire, mental health, school nurses and school counselors, or which school counselors made up the biggest chunk of it."
Most recently, the team was called in after a Yuma High School teacher's arrest. The day before school started Michael Cox, 37, was arrested for possession of child pornography. YUHSD and the crisis counseling team were ready.
"I will commend YUHS administration and staff for how efficiently they took and dealt with this situation and put some things in process so when the students showed up on that first day, it was already taken care of," says Hill.
In the face of such events, parents, teachers and students all seem to have the same question for the crisis team.
"90% of all situations, whether it be the one at Yuma High or any of the ones we've dealt with, it's always a questioning of people of why," explains Hill.
Hill adds the vast majority of people are able to handle tragedy and more forward on their own, but some need outside assurance and help accepting one simple truth.
"This is just part of life. How we deal with them and how we move on … that's everything," says Hill.
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