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$1.6m grant to help Boston schools address trauma in students

Nazeem Nelson (right), 17, a Jeremiah Burke E. Burke High School sophomore, left the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building with program specialist Greg Hill.
Nazeem Nelson (right), 17, a Jeremiah Burke E. Burke High School sophomore, left the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building with program specialist Greg Hill. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)

The Boston public schools have received a $1.6 million federal grant to address early symptoms of trauma in students, though a partnership with the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, officials announced Monday.

The money will support the placement of trauma specialists in 10 schools throughout the district to help coordinate interventions with students who have experienced trauma, to reach out to their families, and refer them to partner organizations.

A 2013 Boston Children’s Hospital study found that 20 percent of the city’s students had experienced or observed two or more traumatic events, such as domestic violence, neighborhood violence, crime, or poverty, School Superintendent Tommy Chang said at an event announcing the grant.

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“Research shows that when left untreated, serious violence can have ... lifelong impact on students, into adulthood,” Chang said. “It affects their ability to form healthy relationships, succeed in school, secure employment — and they have poor health outcomes.”

Nazeem Nelson, 17, said in an interview following the announcement that he had witnessed urban violence up close after falling in with the wrong group of friends.

Superintendent Tommy Chang (right) conferred with Amalio Nieves, assistant superintendent for social-emotional learning and wellness.
Superintendent Tommy Chang (right) conferred with Amalio Nieves, assistant superintendent for social-emotional learning and wellness.(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)

Nelson said he was skipping school and making all F’s before he transferred to Jeremiah E. Burke High School, where an intervention program helped him change direction and ultimately become an honor roll student.

He credited Greg Hill, a teacher at the school, with inspiring him to overcome struggles at school and in his personal life.

“He helped me get motivated to come to school,” Nelson said. “He made me feel like the Burke was more of a family. ... When I started coming to school, I started realizing everything I was missing.”


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.