Malynda Scifres, Attica guidance director, is now in her fifth year at Attica Junior-Senior High School.

Scifres recently received a MAC Grant presented by local McDonald’s owner/operator Michael Brooks, for $500.

The current $500 grant emerged from Social Emotional Learning classes in the sixth-eighth grades wellness rotation.

One life skill they teach is empathy, how to think about others, Scifres said, and they focused on how COVID 19 is affecting teachers and ways to show they care.

The funded proposal was to create a coffee and tea company, the Bow-wow Coffee and Tea Co.

The money goes toward buying coffee supplies and treats, and students rotate into the barista position to help Scifres go around and serve teachers.

“It’s an opportunity for students to serve others,” she said. “We all can use a little encouragement on a daily basis, can’t we?”

Scifres has worked in education for almost 30 years, with most of that time at South Vermillion Community School Corp. as a guidance counselor.

She primarily serves sixth through 12th grade at Attica. She is the only guidance counselor in the Attica Consolidated School Corp., and sometimes works with elementary students, for counseling.

This grant, she said, dovetailed from a $350,000 grant in its third and final year, one that is a huge part of her job, and that funds the SEL classes.

Sarah Mattern, instructor for SEL at Attica, said she expects they’ll continue the classes after the grant ends, because it’s been successful.

For freshman students, the class revolves around sleep, nutrition and fitness, she said.

For middle school students, they study life skills, including relationships at home, communication skills, decision making, empathy, negotiation and compromising in difficult situations.

“I think most students need it,” Mattern said. “Family situations are different now, we need to develop some of these skills.”

In her day-to-day job, Scifres must keep all students on track to meet graduation requirements, provide any needed counseling, and provide academic and career guidance.

“I feel like I wear so many hats here,” she said.

The three-year, $350,000 grant is thanks to North Central Health Services, of Lafayette, that gives money to school corporations surrounding Tippecanoe County. All Fountain County schools received a grant for SEL classes in pre-K through grade nine, to teach students how to better regulate their emotions.

“That was pre-COVID, you can only imagine the challenges that have come along since COVID,” Scifres said. Part of the challenge, she said, is with losing their normal friend groups and teacher role models from their daily lives.

She expects another grant award from North Central Health Services, called the Preventing Youth Suicide Initiative, for work between the school and community. “Suicide is becoming increasingly problematic across the country,” she said,” Covid has been a huge factor.”

Scifres is married and lives in Vermillion County, in Dana. She said she was born there, and lived there her entire life except during college in Virginia and one year in Florida. She drives about an hour each way to and from work. She also owns a side business, Gunsmith Valley English Labs.

“This is a great place to be,” Scifres said. “Attica is a great corporation to work for. The people I work with are extremely supportive, the administration are huge cheerleaders to help us in these endeavors. This SEL initiative, it’s been great.”

Mattern spotlighted the other administrators who have helped make SEL a success: coordinator Elizabeth Cunningham (who has “done some amazing things as well,” Mattern said); Mr. Dusty Goodwin, elementary principal; Mrs. Sheri Hardman, superintendent; Mrs. Kara Skinner, principal; and Mr. David Jensen, asst. principal; and Scifres.

“What’s really neat, our school is small enough, I can touch base with a lot of those students,” she said. “If a student is struggling with issues, they know who they can go to.”

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