FEA Wins Grants Totaling More Than $580,000 for a Healing-Centered Engagement Model to Address ACEs and Trauma

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The Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) has been awarded grants in excess of $580,000 to help teachers, administrators, staff, families and community groups in a diverse cohort of 25 schools to introduce a Healing-Centered Engagement model to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma. Lead partners on the project are NJPSA/FEA and NJEA, and all aspects of the pilot initiative, including training and coaching, will be provided free-of-charge.

ACEs are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, household substance use, and parental  separation, which affect children’s brain architecture and can have negative, lifelong effects on health and  well-being. In addition to stressful or traumatic events, some children also face exposure to chronic, toxic stress from historical and ongoing traumas due to systemic racism and poverty. ACEs and trauma can inhibit a child’s ability to learn, develop language skills, create healthy attachments, and form  relationships.

Funding for this important initiative will be provided by the following organizations:

  • The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation: $50,000
  • The Burke Foundation: $180,000
  • The Princeton Area Community Foundation: $77,666
  • The NJ Pandemic Relief Fund: $200,000

In addition, the NJ Health Initiatives will provide $75,000 that will directly fund the Mental Health First Aid component of the project. As the lead agency and convener for the  initiative, NJPSA/FEA will partner with NJEA, the Mental Health Association in NJ, the NJ Department of Education, the Office of Resilience in the NJ Department of the Children and Families, the Burke Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Princeton Area Community Foundation, and New Jersey Health Initiatives. Support and collaboration from the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund will bolster our schools in these uniquely challenging times, and provide a  foundation to strengthen our education system. 

“We are truly grateful for the support of so many partners who agree that schools should adopt a healing-centered engagement model in order to assist children and adults who have experienced ACEs and other mental health issues,” said Mary Reece, FEA’s Director of Special Projects. “These grants will also go a long way toward training school leaders, faculty, staff and community members in the appropriate ways to identify and assist students and adults who are experiencing such difficulties.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the national racial justice movement, has highlighted the pressing need to address the social and emotional well-being of young people in New Jersey, many of whom are experiencing anxiety, trauma, and loss of connection with peers and caring adults. A diverse coalition of education and mental health non-profits, public agencies, and funders have united to support the proposed pilot initiative to create a healing-centered education system in New Jersey, which will allow schools to support children during and following the pandemic by: 

  • Piloting training on ACEs, Mental Health First Aid, and healing centered approaches in 25 schools, reaching teachers, administrators, staff and families across  regions and grade-levels;
  • Developing complementary resources to help teachers identify students with mental health needs and make referrals to resources in the community as needed;
  • Working with schools to develop and operationalize clear referral pathways to local counseling and social services/supports for children experiencing trauma; and
  • Evaluating the pilot to determine changes at the teacher and school level and support scaling the  initiative across the state.

Goals for this initiative include the following:

Goal 1: Increase awareness and knowledge among school leaders, educators, and staff regarding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Mental Health First Aid, healing centered engagement and their relevance to educational practice. 


Goal 2: Provide teachers with actionable, evidence-informed strategies to support children  experiencing significant adversity. 

Goal 3: Connect children experiencing significant adversity to local counseling and social support  services, including school counselors as well as community-based resources. 

Founded in 1985, FEA is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation and the  professional learning division of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), which has  over 8,800 members statewide. FEA provides quality professional learning and coaching to educators to  improve student achievement and engagement throughout New Jersey. Its mission is to promote sustained professional growth, support research-based practices, and enhance learning for leaders and  teachers for the purposes of equity and continuous school improvement. 

For more information, please contact Mary Reece, Director of Special Projects, at mreece@njpsa.org.