- Fayette County Public Schools
Time to talk: Patterson is a resource for students in need
When students need someone to talk to, Student Advocacy Specialist Sharlene Patterson is ready to listen.
Patterson serves as the Student Advocacy Specialist (SAS) for the McIntosh feeder pattern and for Fayette LIFE Academy. She is part of the three-member SAS team with Racine Sales and Mary Stackhouse.
The need for a more specialized role was clear after the COVID-19 pandemic as the issues kids face outside of the classroom came more into focus.
“We often look at our high-achieving kids and our low-achieving kids and behavior issues, but never those kids that fall through the crack who might be experiencing some issues that we don’t see,” said Patterson. “This position offers that kind of support to kids who might not often be seen.”
Students are referred to a SAS by teachers, counselors, and administrators. The SAS helps them work through whatever issues they might be facing and advocate for them when they can’t speak for themselves. They also help families and push for needed resources.
“We wanted to make sure that we serve those kids and advocate for those kids,” said Patterson. “A lot of times kids don’t come right and out tell you.”
They work closely with school counselors and administrators and can help with discipline and family issues.
The biggest difference between SAS and school counselors is they are available 24-7. Students and families have a number where they can reach them whenever they are in need.
“We want to be sure they have someone to talk to when they’re not in school.”
A key focus is mindfulness and how to bring yourself down when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. It’s a set of life skills they can utilize throughout their lives. It is important to expect times when anxiety is likely, like before a big test, and be prepared. Students can find tools like breathing exercises they can turn to any time.
“We know we’re going to be anxious. We know we’re going to worry. That’s part of life,” said Patterson. “How do we bring ourselves down?”
Patterson wants students to take the phrase “It’s okay to not be okay” to heart. Everyone has their own struggles and you don’t have to fight alone.
“People need someone to talk to, especially children who have experienced trauma,” she said. “I’m always for the underdog.”
“The Honor Role,” an official podcast for Fayette County Public Schools, features employees, rotating through key stakeholders, including teachers, staff, nurses, custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. Join us as we dive in and learn about their journeys, their inspirations, and their whys.
Episodes are available on all major podcast platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and promoted on the social media channels of Fayette County Public Schools.
Episodes will also be available here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/2200811.