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What A North Minneapolis Elementary School Is Doing To Help Traumatized Students

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Violence throughout the Minneapolis community is having a huge impact on students of all ages.

Trauma associated with gun violence, mass shootings and days commemorating the loss of life by law enforcement has the community fighting to get the help they need.

WCCO's Reg Chapman spoke with one Minneapolis Public School that is the village these students need.

The sounds of gunshots, sirens and flashing light can be traumatizing to the youngest in our communities.

Between Jenny Lind Elementary School Principal Pao Vue and Assistant Principal Mercedes Walker, there is more than 50 years of living and working on Minneapolis' north side.

"Whatever happens in the community absolutely plays out at school. The constant conversation is not feeling safe going outside," Walker said. "There are a lot of people being called 'mom' in this building, you know. Like just 'mama,' 'big mama,' you know, it is really a family."

It's a family dealing with the emotions that come with living where gunfire, and memorials to those killed are common.

Jenny Lind Elementary School
(credit: CBS)

"We really have to find the time to unpack what's going on for, you know, our youngest scholars because they don't even understand how to deal with what they're going through," Walker said.

Jenny Lind has a support staff and a therapist from Washburn on site.

"Mental health is just like physical health, and so we … have some amazing programming through Second Step, and AMAZEworks, and we really just try to keep the conversation open," Walker said.

Diwin Daley has an eighth grader at Franklin Middle School and a freshman at North High.

"They're scared for their own safety because they do have to walk to school," Daley said. "In the back of their minds, the unrest hasn't left."

His concern is the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder.

"They're scared that … our family and other families will be effected. Will our house be burnt down? If we walk outside will there be gunshots?" Daley said.

Daley was able to find counselors and pastors to help speak with his children.

"We'll take the time to pull them aside and say, 'What's going on, baby? How can I help you?'" Walker said.

The focus is helping kids feel safe to talk so they feel safe walking out the school's door and back into community.

Teachers and parents say a safe space outside of school, like a community center, is needed in north Minneapolis. Resources at a community center can help kids cope with what's going on in their neighborhood.

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