In the city’s public schools, United Way helps children exposed to trauma

Marilyn Monteagudo, a student at the John S. Martinez School, pets Nutmeg, a “Soul Friends” dog.
Marilyn Monteagudo, a student at the John S. Martinez School, pets Nutmeg, a “Soul Friends” dog that helps children share their feelings.

Through United Way’s work in the New Haven Trauma Coalition, 2,366 New Haven schoolchildren who have been exposed to trauma were helped last year in their schools.

Marilyn Monteagudo is one of those children. She attends the John S. Martinez School, where she has visits from a dog named Nutmeg. The therapy dog helps children share their feelings.

She’s on the shy side, so with this she’ll be able to tell me what’s wrong,” said Marilyn’s mother, Jasmyn Santiago, of her daughter’s encounters with Nutmeg.

Marilyn’s school is part of the New Haven Trauma Coalition, and “Soul Friends” is one of the new programs offered at school to tackle childhood trauma. According to the United Way, 90% of New Haven students have been exposed to trauma. Research shows that such exposure can lead to stress so toxic that it results in developmental delays, neurological damage, and health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

The New Haven Trauma Coalition helps children through after-school activities such as yoga, meditation, and dancing, as well as providing traditional clinical workers. With this versatile approach, United Way and community partners aim to create a safer, healthier community. United Way helps schools determine what their students need, and then connects the school with community partners.

Marilyn’s mother said that her daughter has learned something from Nutmeg and Soul Friends: “You can tell by a person’s outside that something is wrong, and animals do the same thing.”

Donations to the United Way help children like Marilyn who have been exposed to trauma. To donate to the 2016-2017 campaign, visit the Yale United Way Campaign website.

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